So it rained Sunday. There is also a forecast of rain today. However, we thankfully were spared the rain on Saturday…which means the meteorological people got some serious kudos. With an estimated 650,000 people in attendance at ‘Thunder Over Louisville‘, approximately zero of them wanted it to rain. So no rain during the event day was a good thing…right? Yes, it helped the air show and fireworks out, but the precipitation from earlier in the week caused a serious concern for public safety. The Ohio River was at the start of flood stage.
I participate in our public safety efforts and was at the City Incident Command Post for the event. One organization present was the National Weather Service, and at the briefing, their representative stated that the Ohio River had a flow speed of 4 mph. Or as someone mentioned, “boats would be cruisin for a bruisin” since there are full-sized trees floating down the Ohio River at ramming speed. The Coast Guard etc. did not prohibit boats from being on the water for the event, but it was highly recommended that boats stay off the water. Last week, I saw an excellent news interview with the Coast Guard that discussed the high water and the dangers it presented (great job local media!). In the City, large sections of the shore had orange safety fencing installed to keep people back from the edge of the water. By the end of the event, I am not aware of anyone that was injured due to the high water. That is definitely a positive.
When the flood waters recede
By chance, it was Saturday in which the flood waters crested; currently the water level is dropping. After the flood, comes the cleanup. As you can see in the picture below (taken at the same spot as the first picture), the amount of debris and trash left behind is significant.
Floodplains generally receive plenty of debris once the water goes down. If lots of trash is left behind in a random wooded area along the river, does anyone care? Maybe or maybe not. But think about all the work that must be done by people to clean up the Riverstage. And this is just one small spot in the City.
What is being done to combat this?
For Thunder this year, we installed erosion control mats on some of the storm drains along Riverside Drive. These mats were to keep people from dumping food, grease, and trash in the storm drains during the event. Some of them were stunningly funky, but I included a photo in which you could still see the temporary cover. We collected a decent amount of food waste, cigarettes, dirt, and general trash.
What can you do?
Don’t dump things in the storm drain or in the water. Nature says thank you, along with all the people who have to pick up truckloads of trash left behind.
The flood finale
Flood waters leave behind a mess. That mess can be in the form of trash and debris, or it can come in the form of physical damage to infrastructure such as roads and utilities. From a public safety perspective, flooding means a high potential for having to risk lives to rescue someone who drove out into the water or just fell in. While a 4 mph current sounds slow, it is very dangerous.
From a water quality perspective, throwing stuff in the storm drains or in the water just causes problems for someone else downstream. In our area, we get the water and trash etc. from upstream (think Cincinnati), while people in Evansville get to enjoy trash from the Louisville area.
To answer the title of this post: I have no idea right now. At the City Incident Command Post, at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday as people were leaving the area, every single camera showed lots of trash and litter. ‘Thunder Over Louisville’ has a great cleanup program that is initiated after everyone goes home, but the flood debris will have to be collected later.
Remember: everyone lives downstream of someone else!