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Friday, September 25, 2009

The Flood

The recent torrential rains that have fallen on Georgia sparked my interest in other significant floods in American and world history. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “Floods are the result of a multitude of naturally occurring and human-induced factors, but they all can be defined as the accumulation of too much water in too little time in a specific area. Types of floods include regional floods, flash floods, ice-jam floods, storm-surge floods, dam- and levee-failure floods, and debris, landslide, and mudflow floods.”

Going back to 1889, the U.S. has seen over 30 significant flood events which resulted in thousands of deaths and many billions of dollars in property damage. Also according to the USGS, during the 20th century, floods were the number-one natural disaster in the United States in terms of the number of lives lost and property damage.

Excluding hurricanes, 1889 saw the worst flood in U.S. history. The Johnstown Flood saw over 2200 deaths. It was the largest loss of U.S. civilian lives at that time. The flood was a result of a storm that formed overNebraska and Kansas on May 28, 1889.  The storm strengthened as it moved east towards the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) area. Six to ten inches of rain fell in 24 hours in the Johnstown-South Fork region.

As a result of the downpours, the South Fork Dam, located about 14 miles upstream from Johnstown, burst, sending 20 million tons of water (about 5 billion gallons) hurdling toward Johnstown and other smaller towns. As the wall of water tore downstream, huge masses of debris accumulated in the water.

Nearly an hour after the collapse of the South Fork Dam, the flood hit Johnstown. Moving at nearly 40 miles per hour, the wall of water and debris was 60 feet high. A witness upstream on high ground noted that the water was nearly obscured by the debris and resembled “a huge hill rolling over and over.” (Smaller towns hit upstream were struck with such force that afterward only bare rock remained.)

The most significant flood events are usually the result of hurricanes. According to Time magazine the top 15 most costly weather events in U.S. history were all hurricanes and floods. Of course, hurricane Katrina tops the list with a price tag of $85.5 billion.

I say all of this to note that every flood, tsunami, or any other natural disaster the world over, pales in comparison to the world-wide flood recorded in the book of Genesis. The account of Noah and his Ark is one of the best known events described in the Bible. As devastating, disruptive, and destructive as the natural disasters mentioned above were, imagine the massive ruin that a world-wide flood would bring.

In spite of our familiarity with the Flood event, the reality of it is almost incomprehensible. Much of the artwork depicting the Flood treats it in a rather trite and childish way. The reality is that after Creation week, it is the greatest physical event the world has ever known.

The Flood brought, among other things, earthquakes, volcanoes, and geysers of molten lava. It carved out canyons and river beds. It pushed up mountain ranges and separated continents, and most likely ushered in an ice age. The Flood physically changed the world in ways we can barely imagine.

Also, notably, the global Flood as described in Genesis is a significant event when it comes to explaining (from a biblical perspective) much of what is held up today as evidence for Darwinian evolution. Most of the fossil record, layers in the earth, canyons, mountain ranges, etc. can be explained by the Flood. Of course, evolutionists will scoff at this, but when we see with our own eyes what devastation a local flood can bring, it should be less difficult to understand the possible results of a global flood.

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

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