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Conservation Connection – How flooding affects outdoor activity

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – We’ve seen unusually heavy rains lately and significant flooding, and more rain is on the way. It’s easy to see the effects all this can have on our daily lives. But it’s something to think about when heading out for outdoor adventures too.

Dan Zarlenga with the Missouri Department of Conservation visits KPLR 11 News at Noon to talk about how high water events can impact outdoor activities.

Q. What’s the first thing to thing to about during high water events like this?
• Safety!
• If there’s any concern regarding safety, don’t do it . . . the fishing trip or camping can wait until another time
• Be sure to check local forecasts and condition reports where you intend to go, including river levels if nearby (National Weather Service website)
• Some areas may not even be open or accessible (e.g. Columbia Bottom, check MDC.mo.gov for info on conservation areas and accesses)

Q. What are some hazards you might face during times like these?
• High water levels make boating and paddling especially dangerous due to swift currents and floating debris
• Camping sites can become inundated overnight due to flash flooding, especially in lowlands and near or along rivers and creeks
• An easy, shallow stream crossing can become a treacherous, deep one in a matter of hours—keep this in mind when hiking
• Be cautious of low water vehicle crossings—it can take less than two feet of swiftly moving water to carry a vehicle away, or loss of control with only 6 inches of water
• Account for about half the cause of deaths related to flooding

Q. With all these potential hazards, is there anything good about flooding events?
• Flooding is a natural process
• It provides nutrients to create fertile farmland
• Areas with healthy, functional wetlands help ease the effects of flooding
• Soils and plant roots adapted to wet conditions absorb flood waters, and release them back gradually
• Many plant and animals have evolved to thrive in and need these conditions
• Wetlands are important to humans too by giving flood waters somewhere else to go

Q. Is there anything viewers can do to help?
• Keep in mind that impacts of flooding are made worse by impervious structures like concrete, asphalt, rooftops, etc.
• Consider making use of rain gardens, rain barrels and native plantings to help retain rain water—every little bit helps
• If practical, consider using more porous surface alternatives rather than impervious ones like concrete
• Encourage use of wetland and water retention structures in residential and commercial developments
• Show a little love to wetlands!

Q. How can viewers keep tabs on conservation area and river access closings?
• Consult the 'Check For Closings' link currently at MDC.mo.gov