Whether they’re natural or human-made, disasters and tragedies can be hard to explain to your children. You want your children to have enough information, but not so much that they are terrified. In light of the floods in Colorado, we’ve pulled together some scientific information about flooding that will help you explain the flash floods to your children.
Why Do Floods Happen?
Floods happen when there is a lot of water in a river and it spills over its banks. When you look at a river, you see water. However, there is an area around the river that is called the floodplain. This is where the water goes when the river rises. Often, the floodplain is dry. When there is a lot of extra water in the river, however, it rises up onto the floodplain. The floodplain is kind of like the hole in your bathtub that’s there in case you forget to turn off the tap. The extra water goes onto the floodplain, spreads out, and moves around.
Where Does the Floodwater Come From?
Water comes from many places. Sometimes floods happen when it rains a lot in a short time. Sometimes they come when there is a lot of snow and the snow melts because it is very hot. In Colorado, 15 inches of rain fell in a week. This is half of the amount that the area usually gets in a year, so there was flooding as a result of all that rainfall.
What Happens When It Rains?
When it rains, plants catch the rain with their leaves, then the rain drips down into the soil. Some of it sinks into the ground to go far below, to the groundwater. Some of it moves downhill to the nearest river or lake. In Colorado, the hillsides have fewer living plants on them due to wildfires; this means that there are fewer plants to slow down the rain.
Floods can happen in cities too. In places with pavement, water behaves differently. It’s hard for water to soak into the pavement. Instead, it moves across the pavement. It might make puddles or go into drains by the side of the road, and these drains go into larger bodies of water like rivers, lakes, and oceans. When we put water into drains by the side of the road, it moves more quickly than it does in the soil. The drains act like a waterslide. This fast-moving water can go to the river at the same time, and it can make the river rise quickly. We can help reduce the danger of flooding by making sure that there are lots of places where the water can sink into the ground, like parks and gardens.
In Colorado, the rain went into another kind of waterslide: narrow canyons. These canyons are similar to your garden hose. Do you know what happens when you run the hose, then use your finger to shut off part of the flow? The water shoots out of the hose even faster. This is what happens to the water in narrow canyons. It is fast and powerful.
Why Do Peoples’ Homes Get Hurt By Floods?
Some of the most diverse and beautiful places in the world are areas where land and water meet. When trees fall down because of floods, this leaves spaces open for new plants to grow. Floods also bring important nutrients to plants that live on the floodplain. This means that floodplains are very diverse, and they have lots of good homes for animals.
Just like the plants and animals, people like the floodplains. The soil is good for growing food, and many floodplains have rich farmland. Unfortunately, this means that when floods happen, those homes and businesses end up underwater.
People try to build their homes far enough away from the river, but sometimes there are very large floods. The flood is Colorado is a 100-year flood: something that usually happens once in each 100 year time period. This means that it doesn’t happen very often!
Teaching Kids About Flooding
The flooding in Colorado is especially frightening for the children involved, but it can also be scary for the children who are watching the progress of the floods in the media. By talking about it with your children and letting them know how floods occur, kids can start to understand why this disaster happened, and how your family is helping to ensure that your home is safe.
BBC News. Colorado Flooding Rescue Operation Continues. (2013). Accessed September 15, 2013.
Friends of the River. What is a Floodplain? Accessed September 15, 2013.© Copyright 2013 Tricia Edgar, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting