I know a thing or two about flooding, having been through a lot of catastrophic floods as a child living on the Skagit River of Washington state. What has occurred in the mid-west has not been given the media attention it deserves.
The situation: Our nation’s breadbasket is under water and the damage is horrific.
Warm temperatures caused ice to melt suddenly throughout the Midwest. A lot of rain combined with the melt to fill waterways quickly. Nebraska has been impacted the most because the massive amount of water caused the Spencer Dam to break and cause a flash flood. I want to point out that the dam is 90 years old.
As dams approach 100 years old, the concrete in them is approaching the end of its life in terms of structural integrity. This is an issue we will see more as all the old WPA dam projects started or completed in the 1930s and early 40s, near 100 years old.
Here are a few things that you need to know to realize the heavy impact this flooding will have on all of us as a nation.
- Nebraska was hit the hardest and is home to 6.4 million cattle, meaning it is our 2nd biggest beef producing state
- In Nebraska, it is already estimated that livestock and corn losses have reached $1 billion dollars.
- Farmers are cut off from their livestock so they cannot feed them. The National Guard is airlifting food to livestock as they can. This type of operation is very expensive and can only do so much.
More rain is expected
The situation shows no signs of major improvement since more rain and moisture carrying systems are expected to dump more rain meaning that the saturated soils and bloated waterways have no chance to recede to anywhere near a normal level. Any additional rain is going to go right where it is needed the least.
The infrastructure necessary to process food and get feed and fuel where it needs to go has been decimated.
The Cargill ethanol plan is cut off so there is no ethanol leaving the facility and no corn coming in to make more.
Roadways are underwater and that means what foodstuff that is not ruined, cannot be easily shipped out and may just get ruined by more flooding.
The damage that can be caused by flood waters over roads is yet to be seen but considering how bad this flooding is, you can expect that some roadways will need massive repairs before they can handle the traffic and heavy loads that are necessary to keep food and fuel flowing into and out of our nation’s breadbasket and ethanol producing regions.
Our nation’s food supply has taken an enormous hit. Here are a few things to expect:
Less food means higher prices. Sure we have reserves of grains and some other foods but is that enough to get us through without skyrocketing prices?
Many crops will not get planted due to damaged and waterlogged fields, infrastructure, and machinery.
More farmers will bow out and not return
Consider how you would feel if you were already operating on thin margins and your entire livelihood is destroyed enough that you cannot plant your fields.
With the average age of the American farmer being over 60, I cannot blame them for not wanting to start back after such a catastrophe. At the same time, farming is in the blood of so many that they won’t bow out entirely. Farming is hard work and seeing your life get flooded is devastating.
Farmers in the Midwest were already facing a very challenging market due to the trade tariffs with China. The US government has not been buying crops like they once were.
Mental health issues will go up among farmers
If you are a farmer in the midwest and feel like you are losing it or you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek help. Farmer suicides go up when there are disasters like the flooding in the Midwest.
If you know a farmer or farm family in affected areas, please check in on them and be there to support them when they need someone to talk to. Take the time to do things with them and help out where you can.
If you are a farmer that is having dark thoughts, please seek out help. There are people that care and will help you get through this.
Buying some foods now and putting them back will help insulate you from higher food costs later.
As a prepper, you may already have a substantial food supply put back for emergencies but you may not want to decimate your preps because of high prices later on. While this type of situation is an example of why it is good to always be prepared, it may be a good idea to put back some extra foods for your personal use over the next year. If you are on a fixed income or strict budget, you need to plan and prepare now to insulate yourself from higher prices on some basic dry goods at the very least.
Higher food prices may happen faster than you think
Since it is well known that the losses in the Midwest are devastating and we don’t know the total extent of what to expect, prices could start rising sooner rather than later. Consider that spreading the cost of this disaster out over a longer time period may be a way that companies avoid extremely sharp rises later on down the road.
Fuel costs will be affected
Like it or not, most gas sold in the United States contains up to 10% ethanol. With a large section of the corn belt under water, ethanol plants cut off from corn deliveries, and the damage and losses of grain silos and elevators, there is a lot of ethanol that is simply not going to be made. While I cannot be sure how much this will affect what you are paying at the pump, it is hard to imagine that we will not see some change in gas prices this spring and summer.
Ethanol prices are already at a 7 month high and the crisis is nowhere near over. It is estimated that 13% of the nation’s ethanol production is offline because railroad tracks are flooded.
Flood Survival Tips
The force of water is so great and the damage it can leave behind is mind-boggling. Flooding was something I just expected to happen when I was a kid. In the winter and early spring, we would get what was called a Chinook wind that would quickly melt the snowpack. The worse flooding incidents happened when there was a big snowpack right before the Chinook wind.
The town I grew up in is actually considering moving the entire town because of the massive floods that just keep becoming more common.
My tips for surviving a flood
- Get out fast. Water can rise rapidly. If you get stuck in a massively flooded town when you have been warned to get out, you risk a lot and if resources have to be tied up rescuing you, it can mean that others are not being helped because you were stubborn.
- Don’t try to take too many non-essentials with you. While you might have to stay away for some time, you don’t need to try to take a lot of meaningful but unnecessary items. This behavior leads to people staying in place too long to escape to safety.
- Always have 10 days or more worth of medications
- Do not return until you are told it is okay. Flood waters can be teeming with nasty stuff.
- Have a plan for your pets. This means having transport crates and kennels, food, etc.
- Never drive through water of unknown depth or that is flowing a lot. It is so easy to be swept away or have your car stall out and start to take on water.
- Have several routes in mind for getting out.
Consider meeting up with friends and family at a hotel or motel that you can all stay at.
My reasons for suggesting this are from personal experience. When I was 7 years old the flood of 1990 tore my town up. We were stuck in a hotel for days but it wasn’t so bad because some of my childhood friends were at the same hotel and we could hang out together. I am sure it also made it a little easier on the adults that were dealing with a bunch of kids going stir crazy.
Back in 1990 in the North Cascades, we didn’t even have a landline phone or cable tv and kids played outside. The more well off kids may have a Nintendo or something but most of us played outside, running the banks of the Skagit River. We made campfires, chopped up wood, and practiced throwing rocks in the river. When we were not doing that, we were riding our bicycles for miles just to visit each other or go to the store for a candy bar and Coca-Cola. It was much simpler times.
Minor flooding is one thing but a major flood can have very long lasting effects. Disease and mold are major problems that can escalate following a flood. Here are some tips for staying healthy.
Filter or buy your water until you are absolutely sure your regular supply is not contaminated
Water supplies are often contaminated after flooding. Wellheads are often topped and that means that private wells will need to be checked for damage and treated to remove any bacteria and other contaminants.
In the Midwest, many are facing contaminated water supplies and that could go on for a very long time.
This is one of many disasters where you should have a water filter that is capable of removing bacteria and viruses. The Lifestraw Mission is one example of a filter that can handle the job and provide enough output for a group.
Avoid any skin contact with standing water
Standing water can harbor bacteria that will cause even small cuts or scrapes to become infected. If you do have skin contact with the waters, wash the area with soap and water as quickly as possible or use hand sanitizer.
Pay close attention to even minor scrapes
Floods are not the time to worry about using too much antibiotic ointment. You get a minor scrape, treat it immediately.
I will say it again, DO NOT RETURN TOO FAST!
Before you return permanently, evaluate the situation. Just because people are being allowed back in an area doesn’t mean it is a healthy or safe situation. The location of your house and what is nearby are factors.
Watch out for living and dead animals
Floods cause animals to flee so animals that stay hidden can suddenly be forced out into the open and they are desperate and scared on top of that. Flooded homes can harbor both living and dead animals. After the major flooding in North Carolina’s hog producing regions, caused by hurricanes, there were a lot of dead and bloated pigs floating around.
Use dust masks and respirators when cleaning or entering wet and moldy areas
While people can go a little crazy about mold during good times, during a flood situation and the aftermath, you need to be very careful. Mold spores can lead to major respiratory problems and sickness in extreme cases.
The odor after a flood can be overwhelming too so a mask can help out with that a little. Even a few inches of water in a room that goes away fairly fast can cause damage. If you are trying to get back into your home, make sure to clean all surfaces with a disinfectant or similar. You want to make sure that you are killing bacteria and mold. Oxygen Cleaner is a good alternative to bleach and you can get it that is unscented.
If someone in your home has very bad allergies and your home is experiencing a lot of mold spores, you may want to get professionals in.
Find out what help is available to you and file insurance claims as soon as possible.
Flooding damage can vary a lot from home to home. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) sometimes offers grants to those that experience damage and losses. These funds are to be used to make your home habitable again. This system was abused a lot in the town I grew up in. If you are lucky enough to get help, please use it for what it was intended. I saw a lot of people do the bare minimum to fix up their house and then spend the rest on toys they could not afford before. FEMA may be stricter about proving how you use funds now. The town I grew up in cannot even get FEMA money anymore because the government got tired of doing it every year and the system being abused.
Insurance claims must be filed fast but they can take some time to be processed, especially when you have an event where so many people are affected.
Temporary housing is one of the more important things that you need to find out about. People that have the means may want to look into a temporary rental that can accommodate everyone in their household. Friends and family may want to combine households for a while to save money. If two households that are related need temporary housing, renting a larger place may be more cost-effective than renting two separate homes. Staying with family that is not affected by floods is another option.
Insurance companies and FEMA may reimburse you for housing costs or direct you to some housing while recovery and cleanup are happening.
Farmers that are going through a tough time and need someone to talk to are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will do my best to respond. I have a small farm and vineyard so I know about putting everything you got into what you do and some hardships you have to endure to produce food.