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flood (in hydrology)

flood, inundation of land by the rise and overflow of a body of water. Floods occur most commonly when water from heavy rainfall, from melting ice and snow, or from a combination of these exceeds the carrying capacity of the river system, lake, or the like into which it runs. Usually the combined flow of several water-swollen tributaries causes flooding along a river bank or shoreline. Accounts of floods that destroyed nearly all life are found in the mythology of many peoples (see Deluge). Not all floods are destructive, however. The annual floodwaters of the Nile and some other larger rivers historically deposited fertile soil along the surrounding floodplain, which is used extensively for agriculture. The damming of the Nile and other rivers in modern times, however, often has greatly reduced this deposition.

Flood Characteristics and Control

The rise and fall of the water level in a river is called the flood wave. Its highest point, or crest, travels progressively downstream. In the upstream portions of a river the flood crest passes quickly. Further downstream the greater volume of water causes slower passage of the flood crest, resulting in floods of longer duration. In many regions, annual floods follow the thaws and rains of spring; flooding also may occur because of thawing ice jamming narrower and shallower parts of a river. In the Arctic regions, especially in the basins of northward flowing rivers, the floods are caused by the thawing of the southern portion of the basin before the ice blocking the lower course of the river melts. Less predictable are floods resulting from ocean waves, called storm surges, pushed onshore by an advancing hurricane, and from sudden torrential flows, called flash floods, following a brief, intense rainstorm or the bursting of a natural or constructed dam or levee. In addition to the duration and quantity of rainfall, the nature of the soil (permeability; state of saturation) of an area affects the frequency of floods.

Generally, flood control measures along a river are attempted at both its headwaters and its low-lying floodplains. Runoff can be detained in the headwaters by planting ground cover on the slopes, building terraces to increase soil infiltration and prevent soil erosion, and building small check dams or retaining ponds to reduce the flow of water. Flood control on the lower floodplains involves building levees to contain the flow and straightening or dredging the channel to improve flow characteristics. Concern over the affects of channelization on rivers in floodplains has led to the development of flood-control approaches that attempt to combine the way floodplains naturally handle floodwaters with traditional methods that restrict those waters greater spread. Such an approach might involve increasing the distance of levees from a river's channel along with the creation of wetlands to absorb floodwaters. Among the chief flood-control projects in the United States are the flood control works along the Mississippi River, the installations of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Glen Canyon and Hoover dams on the Colorado River, and the systems of dams in the Columbia River basin (including Grand Coulee Dam) and in the Missouri River basin.

Notable Floods

A flood of the Tiber was recorded in 413 BC Records of floods on the Danube date from AD 1000. In China some of the world's most disastrous floods have been caused by the unstable Huang He (Yellow River). The river, which flows at or above the level of the bordering land, is contained in part by levees; however, because its channel has gradually become filled with deposited sediment, any appreciable increase in its volume causes the river to overflow and flood the surrounding area. The Netherlands, dependent on its dikes for protection from inundation, has suffered many disastrous floods from the sea and the Rhine and Meuse rivers. In 1970, 1985, and 1991, hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh were killed when the combination of high tides and a tropical cyclone (see hurricane) storm surge caused widespread flooding of the low-lying delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers.

In the United States the Johnstown, Pa., flood of 1889, in which thousands of lives were lost, was caused by the breaking of an earth dam above the city. Even greater loss of life occurred (1900) in Galveston, Tex., when tide and storm surges engulfed the city after a hurricane. The hurricanes of 1938 on the New England and Long Island coasts and Hurricane Donna in 1960 along the Atlantic coast from Florida to the Long Island Sound were also followed by storm surges. In June, 1972, extremely heavy rainfall associated with a tropical storm inundated the basins of the Chemung and Susquehanna rivers of New York and Pennsylvania, causing severely damaging floods in Corning and Elmira, N.Y., and Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg, Pa. In July, 1979, Hurricane Claudette deposited a U.S. record of 43 in. (109 cm) of rain in Alvin, Tex., in 24 hours. Hurricane Katrina in Aug., 2005, led to extensive and devastating storm-surge flooding along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, and the failure of several levees in the New Orleans area resulted in hundreds of deaths. The worst floods in the United States from river overflow were in 1913 on the Miami River (a tributary of the Ohio), in 1927, 1937, 1973, and 2011 on the Mississippi River and some of its tributaries, in 1935–36 on several New England rivers, and in 1993 on the Missouri, Mississippi, and some of their tributaries.

Bibliography

See P. Briggs, Rampage (1973); C. Clark, Flood (1982).

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"flood (in hydrology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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flood

flood / fləd/ • n. 1. an overflowing of a large amount of water beyond its normal confines, esp. over what is normally dry land: in a thousand miles the flood destroyed every bridge | people uprooted by drought or flood | [as adj.] a flood barrier. ∎  (the Flood) the biblical flood brought by God upon the earth because of the wickedness of the human race (Gen. 6 ff.). ∎  the inflow of the tide. ∎ poetic/lit. a river, stream, or sea. 2. an outpouring of tears or emotion: Rose burst into such a flood of tears and sobs as I had never seen. ∎  a very large quantity of people or things that appear or need to be dealt with: a constant flood of callers. 3. short for floodlight. • v. 1. [tr.] cover or submerge (a place or area) with water: the dam burst, flooding a small town watching her father flood their backyard skating rink | [as n.] (flooding) a serious risk of flooding. ∎  [intr.] become covered or submerged in this way: part of the vessel flooded | fig. Sarah's eyes flooded with tears. ∎  (usu. be flooded out) drive someone out of their home or business with a flood: most of the families who have been flooded out will receive compensation. ∎  (of a river or sea) become swollen and overflow (its banks): the river flooded its banks | [intr.] the river will flood if it gets much worse. ∎  overfill the carburetor of (an engine) with fuel, causing the engine to fail to start. 2. [intr.] arrive in overwhelming amounts or quantities: congratulatory messages flooded in his old fears came flooding back. ∎  [tr.] overwhelm or swamp with large amounts or quantities: our switchboard was flooded with calls. ∎  [tr.] fill or suffuse completely: she flooded the room with light. PHRASES: be in (full) flood (of a river) be swollen and overflowing its banks. ∎  (be in full flood) fig. (of a person or action) have gained momentum; be at the height of activity: discussion was already in full flood and refused to be dammed.

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Floods

Floods

Floods are among the most powerful and devastating of natural events. Long after the water has subsided, people remember and talk about the loss and destruction. Moreover, the scale of devastation is often so great as to convince people that the flooding is the work of supernatural beings.

Small wonder, then, that flood myths occur in cultures around the world. One of the most common tells of a great flood that occurred in the distant past. The biblical story of Noah and the ark he built to save certain people and animals from the flood is just one version of a much older myth from Mesopotamia* . Similar stories appear wherever people have experienced floods.

Some scholars believe that memories of real disasters, such as the violent and unpredictable floods that occurred along Mesopotamia's Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, underlie mythological accounts of catastrophic rains and inundations. These stories give meaning and purpose to events in the natural world. In myths, floods become part of a cycle of destruction and rebirth.


Flood Themes

Mythological floods are not local. They take place on a cosmic scale, generally covering the whole world. Though the direct cause of the rising waters may be heavy rainfall, gods or other supernatural beings are responsible. Often the flood is sent as punishment for the wrongdoings of humankind.

supernatural related to forces beyond the norma! world; magical or miraculous

inundation floodwaters that cover the land

cosmic large or universal in scale; having to do with the universe

ritual ceremony that follows a set pattern

In some traditions, a flood reproduces the original mythological conditions of creationthe formless, empty expanse out of which the world was created. The inundation not only destroys the old world but also sets the stage for a brand new one. In myths in which the flood was sent to punish people for their sins, the new world that follows the flood is purified. The religious ritual of baptism reenacts the flood myth on an individual level. The baptismal water is believed to wash away sins, allowing people to be reborn in a purified state. In India, Hindus bathe in the sacred Ganges River to purify themselves. According to many myths of the great flood, a few virtuous individuals survived the inundation, perhaps with the help or advice of a friendly deity. Those survivors repopulated the world, becoming the parents of the present human race. In this way, flood myths are often myths of human origins as well.


Flood Myths

Although the details of the stories differ, flood myths from around the world have many similarities. The themes of punishment, survival, and rebirth or renewal occur frequently.

deity god or goddess

Ancient Near East. The basic flood myth of the ancient Near East, in which the flood was sent as a divine punishment, originated among the Sumerian cities in southern Mesopotamia. Over a period of several thousand years, the Babylonians, the Hebrews, and other civilizations developed their own versions.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

The Sumerian myth tells how the human race, which the gods had created to do their work, became so numerous and noisy that the god Enlil sent a flood to destroy it. However, another god, Enki, wanted to save King Ziusudra (King Atrahasis in some versions). Forbidden by Enlil to warn the king, Enki spoke to the king's reed house. The king overheard the warning, built a boat, and saved his family and a collection of animals.

The Babylonian version of the flood myth appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In this account, the survivor is a man called Utnapishtim. Warned of the flood by a dream in which he heard a god whispering to his reed house, Utnapishtim built a boat, took aboard his family and a selection of craftspeople and animals, and rode out a terrible storm that raged for six days and six nights. Finally the boat landed on a mountaintop, the only land above the flood. Utnapishtim and his wife become immortal as a reward for following the advice of the god in the dream.

The Hebrew version of the story, told in the book of Genesis in the Bible, places greater emphasis on the sinfulness of humankind. The flood was not a cruel whim or mistake of the gods but a deliberate punishment. Like Utnapishtim, Noah was a good man who received a warning and instructions to build a boat. He and his family, and two of every sort of living thing, survived the flood and landed upon the peak of Mount Ararat.


Egypt. The Egyptian flood myth begins with the sun god Ra, who feared that people were going to overthrow him. He sent the goddess Hathor, who was his eye, to punish the people. But she killed so many that their blood, flowing into the Nile River and the ocean, caused a flood. Hathor greedily drank the bloody water. Feeling that things had gone too far, Ra ordered slaves to make a lake of beer, dyed red to look like blood. Hathor drank the beer, became very drunk, and failed to finish the task of wiping out humanity. The survivors of her bloodbath started the human race anew.


Ancient Greece. The Greek flood myth says that Zeus, father of the gods, sent a mighty inundation to destroy the human race. Some versions say that Zeus was angry at the Titan Prometheus* for stealing the gift of fire from the gods and giving it to people. Others say that the flood was punishment for human sinfulness. Prometheus warned his son Deucalion to escape the flood by building a boat. Deucalion and his wife survived, and when the flood waters retreated, they were the only humans left on earth. The couple began the race of people who inhabit the world today. The story of the flood, along with many other Greek myths, appears in the Metamorphoses * by the Roman poet Ovid.

immortal able to live forever

Titan one of a family of giants who ruled the earth until overthrown by the Greek gods of Olympus

China. For thousands of years, the Chinese people have suffered from the flooding of the two great rivers that flow through their land, the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) and the Huang He (Yellow) Rivers. Taming the rivers was one of the chief goals of early Chinese civilization. The story of Yu, one of several Chinese flood myths, celebrates a victory in the long struggle against floods.

In the myth, a man named Gun tried for nine years to dam the destructive waters that covered the land. Because he failed, the supreme god executed him. Gun's son, Yu, took up the task of taming the waters. Instead of building a dam, he decided to drain away the floodwaters through channels. A winged dragon flew in front of him, marking with his tail where Yu should dig the channels. Yu worked for many years, too busy even to see his family. In the end, however, he tamed the rivers, making the land along them suitable for farming. As his reward, Yu became emperor of China.


India. The flood legend of India begins with a creator god named Manu washing himself with water from a jar. A fish in the jar asked for Manu's protection and promised to save him from a great flood that would occur in the future. Manu raised the fish until it was one of the largest fish in the world, and then he released it into the sea. The fish told Manu what year the flood would come and advised him to build a ship. Manu built the ship, and when the flood came, the fish towed it to a mountaintop. Manu alone survived the flood. The fish is generally identified as one form of the god Vishnu* .


Native America. In many Native American myths, floods occur as punishment for human misdeeds. The Chiricahua Apache maintain that the Great Spirit sent a flood to drown the whole earth because people did not worship him. According to the Navajo, a series of floods forced the people to emerge from deep in the earth through several higher worlds. The final flood was caused by Water Monster, who became angry when Coyote stole his child. This flood, which drove the people to the surface of the present world, ended when Coyote returned the Water Monster's baby. The Cheyenne say that the gods use floodwaters to control people's movements.

Floods also have positive powers. In myths of the Arikara and Caddo people, floods wipe out evil giants and make the world safe for humans. Several Indian mythologies in Mexico and the American West tell of cycles of destruction in which one whole world creation was destroyed by flood, while others ended in fire, ice, wind, or other disasters. The Aztecs believed that the first age of creation ended in a flood. In the Mayan creation story, a flood washes away the wooden people made by the gods in an early attempt to create human beings.


Australia. Several groups among the Aborigines, the native people of Australia, believe that a vast flood swept away a previous society. Perhaps these myths grew out of conditions at the end of the last Ice Age, when sea levels rose and coastal regions flooded.

The Thunder God and the Gourd

The Yao people of southern China have a myth that tells how the thunder god caused a great flood. A man captured the god to stop the rains, but the god convinced the man's son and daughter to set him free, and the flooding resumed. The man built a boat and floated to heaven to ask the other gods to help. They were too helpful. The water god drained the flood away so rapidly that the boat crashed to earth, killing the man. His children, meanwhile, were the only survivors of the flood. They floated on the water in a large gourd that grew from a tooth the thunder god had given them. They became the parents of a new human race.

One group of Aborigines says that their ancestral heroes, the Wandjina, caused the flood and then re-created society in its present form. Another version of the myth tells that a huge half-human


* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

snake called Yurlunggur brought on the flood to punish two sisters for sexual misbehavior, that is, for breaking tribal rules concerning proper partners. Yurlunggur swallowed the sisters, but after the floodwaters withdrew, he spat them out and allowed them to start a new society.

See also Creation Stories; Gilgamesh; Manu; Noah; Utnapishtim; Wandjina; Yu.

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Flood

Flood

a large body of water; a great flow or stream of any fluid; any great overwhelming quantity.

Examples: flood of banknotes; of eloquence, 1599; of fire, 1711; of joy, 1719; of laughter, 1611; of lava; of golden light, 1680; of mutiny, 1710; of silver, 1894; of tears, 1589; of unbelief and carelessness, 1833; of visitors, 1607; of water; of fiery words, 1877.

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flood

flood sb. OE. flōd, corr. to OS. flōd (Du. vloed). OHG. fluot (G. flut). ON. flóð, Goth. flōdus :- Gmc. *flōðuz, -am, f. *flō- :- IE. *plō- (as in Gr. plṓin swim).

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Flood

Flood. Deluge described in Genesis 6. 1–9. 18. For the flood of Manu in India, see PRALAYA.

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Flood (in the Bible)

Flood, in the Bible: see Deluge.

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flood

floodblood, bud, crud, cud, dud, flood, Judd, mud, rudd, scud, spud, stud, sudd, thud •redbud • lifeblood •stick-in-the-mud

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FLOOD

FLOOD (flʌd) (USA) fleet observation of oceanographic data

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