A New Disaster Phenomenon

Essential to know; Important to Respond

Around the world, we are familiar with the brutal and destructive power of earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. This summer, whole towns have been destroyed by forest fires: Lytton and Monte Lake in British Columbia; Greenville in California. But there is a new disaster modality that is upon us: the atmospheric river.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), atmospheric rivers are long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – which transport huge volumes of water that can create extreme rainfall and floods, causing mudslides and catastrophic damage to life and property. Atmospheric rivers can be more than 1,000km long and 400-600km wide.

The recent “Pineapple Express” event (named for its origin near Hawaii) slammed British Columbia and Washington state last week with volumes of water equivalent to a flow of between 7.5-25 times the volume of the Mississippi River. The event caused massive flooding and landslides in the region.

Before and after images of the November flooding in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia.

It is important to add this awareness to the literature and our prayerful understanding and support of this old phenomenon that has become recently more potent and destructive. This knowledge is helpful as we prepare for, respond to, and help aid in rebuilding from these catastrophic events. At this point in British Columbia alone, over 1,000,000 livestock have died in the last week, and every rail and highway link between Vancouver and the rest of Canada was disrupted, some of which is only now being restored. To comprehend the scale of this event is to understand that the Port of Vancouver is the third busiest port in all of North America. The backlog of this disruption is as disastrous as the backlog in the port of Los Angeles.

With thanks for your prayerful attention to this matter.

Jeremy Bell

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