Flood Risks: Myths v.s. Facts

After heavy snowfall residents in Washington, Oregon, northern California and parts of Nevada and Idaho watched warmer air from the Pacific Ocean cause heavy rainfall. The result was one of the worst floods in the Pacific Northwest records. (Corps of Engineers photo)

One of the worst floods in the Pacific Northwest occurred in 1964. (Corps of Engineers photo)

Myth:  I’m not in the 100-year flood zone, so I won’t flood.

Fact:  Fact is we all live in a flood zone. Risk doesn’t stop at a line on a map. Twenty percent of flood insurance claims come from areas considered moderate to low risk for flooding. Expect the unexpected and prepare now. Learn more about preparing for an emergency.

 

 

 


 

Urban levees in Multnomah County, Oregon. (Photo courtesy Multnomah County Drainage District)

Urban levees in Multnomah County, Oregon. (Photo courtesy Multnomah County Drainage District)

Myth:  The government wouldn’t allow development in areas at risk of floods.

Fact:  There’s no law preventing development in areas that could flood. In fact, vast areas of agricultural land in historical floodplains around Oregon have been developed for residential use since 1964. The Corps works with state and local governments to use their authority and support their responsibilities in determining how to use land in floodplains and to enforce “flood-wise” requirements. Click on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Map Service Center, https://msc.fema.gov/portal to see where you “land” for flooding.


 

Urban levees in Multnomah County, Oregon. (Photo courtesy Multnomah County Drainage District)

Photo courtesy Multnomah County Drainage District

Myth:  The Corps oversees and manages all levees in the United States.

Fact:  Only about 10 percent of levees in the U.S. are Corps-managed structures. Still, almost 10 million people live or work behind Corps levees. We take our role in maintaining the nation’s infrastructure seriously. Learn more about living behind a levee at http://go.usa.gov/euDQ.

 

 

 


 

Corps of Engineers photo

Corps of Engineers photo

Myth:  A levee is the same as a dam.

Fact:  The Corps uses both dams and levees to manage flood risk, but they are very different structures. Levees help create higher boundaries than a river’s or other water’s natural banks and can protect a community from flood waters, up to a point. Dams are built to hold back massive amounts of water, releasing only as much as operators intend. Over the years our dams and levees have helped save lives and reduced property damage by reducing flood risks.

Compare dams and levees:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix32QtAeOiI

www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MIp1nmWdng&list=UUZgH4yHv06WScTN33Hukmlw


 

Urban levees in Multnomah County, Oregon. (Photo courtesy Multnomah County Drainage District)

Photo courtesy Multnomah County Drainage District

Myth: As long as I live behind a levee I’m safe from flooding.

Fact: Levees have limits. They may reduce risk, but they don’t eliminate it. Levees can be overtopped by rising waters. They can fail due to improper maintenance, erosion, seepage; even burrowing animals can damage a levee.

 

 

 

 


 

1964-Flood-Commemoration-Fact-Sheet-10Myth:  If I need to know something about levees in my community, someone will tell me.

Fact:  Yes and no. Many communities have great outreach programs, but people who live and work behind levees also need to reach out and take responsibility for their own safety. Learn about those levees. Talk to your community officials and leaders about levees and emergency preparedness.

 

 

 

 


Myth:  If a levee fails the government will bail me out.

Fact:  An area must be officially declared a disaster before the federal government can provide assistance, which usually takes the form of low-interest loans that must be repaid. Just a few inches of floodwater can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.