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Floods and

Ozone and



Life Givers, Life Takers
They bring both death and the promise of renewed life, often on the same rushing tide.

Floods can cause untold misery. More than 3,000 people were killed and 14 million left homeless in China during the summer of 1998. The cause: the heaviest flooding of China’s Yangtze and other rivers since 1954. In 1931 almost four million died along China’s Huang, or Yellow River, when it surged over its banks. Heavy summer rains in the U.S. Midwest swelled the Mississippi, Missouri, and several other rivers in 1993, destroying entire towns and covering millions of acres of farmland.

But when rivers overflow their banks due to melting snow or torrential rains, floods enrich surrounding land, leaving behind organic material and minerals in the sand, silt, and debris. Ancient Egyptians planned their planting and their lives around the summer flooding of the Nile, which leaves a thin, even coating of black mud along either side when it recedes, leaving the soil so enriched that fertilizer is unnecessary.

Flash floods, which rise and fall rapidly with little or no warning, and tsunamis—seismic waves caused by undersea earthquakes and volcanoes—also drown people and livestock and destroy their habitations, as does flooding due to rains associated with hurricanes.

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Disasters in slow motion, floods can drag along for weeks or even months.

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A flood occurs when a waterway cannot contain water running off the surrounding land from rain or snow.

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