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Climate Change Will Make Floods Like Louisiana's Far More Common, Says Homeland Security Expert Juliette Kayyem

Flooding hits Louisiana in May 2011.
Louisiana GOSHEP/Flickr Creative Commons

The numbers are staggering: over the past couple of weeks, 6.9 trillion gallons of rain have poured down on the state of Louisiana, damaging over 40,000 homes and resulting in the death of at least 11 people.

The response to the disaster has been swift—officials say over 20,000 people and 1,000 pets have been rescued—but not without challenges, said homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem.

"The challenge here is that this was not a flood zone. Emergency managers train and respond and have assets for the harm they think they're under. This is just a very weird, fluke-ish rain combination flooding that really devastated some areas," Kayyem said.

However, she notes, that 'rare' combination may be increasingly less so, due to climate change.

"That's what climate change is, it's disruption," Kayyem said. "It's climate chaos. You just have these events that are no longer rare and no longer random."

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the likelihood of seeing flooding of this magnitude is once ever 500 years—but five other floods in the United States this year alone have also been "500-year" floods.

Kayyem warns that New England could join the growing list of areas in the United States forming, as the New York Times reports, a "recent and staggering pattern" of major, devastating storms.

"New England is destined relatively soon for a hurricane," Kayyem said. "It's been a long time."

To hear more from homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.

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