Letter writer: 100-year flood likelihood higher than name suggests

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I’m writing in response to Paul Kelman’s letter [“Understanding a 100-year Flood,” June 22, Xpress] commenting on the interview in which I discussed my film [“Remembering the Great Flood of 1916: A Q&A with Filmmaker David Weintraub,” June 15, Xpress].

Kelman expressed concern that I didn’t understand what a 100-year flood was, but I can assure him that I do. While, in theory, a 100-year flood is the one percent chance of a flood of a certain magnitude occurring, the facts tell a far different story. In the past 120 years, 100-year floods have occurred in Western North Carolina in 1896, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1977, 1996 and 2004, which is a rate five times greater than a one percent chance.

According to a recent study published by state geologist Rick Wooten and other researchers, storms in the Southern Appalachians capable of causing thousands of landslides have occurred here every 25 years. Additionally, if you add in major and catastrophic storms in this region, which have resulted in hundreds of landslides over the period between 1916-2013, the report states that their average frequency is once every seven years [Frequency and Magnitude of Selected Historical Landslide Events in the Southern Appalachian Highlands of North Carolina and Virginia (Wooten, et al, 2015)].

I may not be a math major but, given this history, I think it’s clear that the percentage chance of storms capable of causing massive numbers of landslides in WNC is probably closer to 10 percent. If that is the case, wouldn’t we want building codes in this region to be more reflective of the real peril that these storms cause?

And it’s not the flood plain I’m concerned about as much as the construction on steep slopes where most of the damage here is caused. Much of that danger is not limited to the McMansion crowd whose homes have beautiful views on the sides of mountains, but also to the folks living at the bottom of the mountains, where the debris flows will hit hardest.

— David Weintraub
Executive Director
Center for Cultural Preservation

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2 thoughts on “Letter writer: 100-year flood likelihood higher than name suggests

  1. Lulz

    LOL, problem with the local political hacks and their scientific evidence is no one questions it and the hacks are too focused on the power the money brings. And of course it ends in disaster for others. The land holders in the RAD have the system to pay, i.e. us. The fools on the slopes have the insurance companies to do the same. All one has to do around here is call themselves a democrat and they are free to act out in any way possible. Who’s going to hold them up to any scrutiny? The media? The righteous leftards who are only concerned with electing left wing buffoons no matter how utterly bad their character is? Nope.

  2. clayton moore

    Floods are part of nature. Building anything in a flood plain is asking for a situation where all yerr belongings will go zooming downriver and your insurance premiums go through the roof . The fact that the city will issue permits to build a new store on top of a mound of dirt that is barely above the flood line is dumb.

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