Scientists are calling this August's storm that helped cause record flood levels a “100-year storm,” but Dr. Chuck Morris, a hydrologist, said this term can be misleading.

Scientists are calling this August's storm that helped cause record flood levels a "100-year storm," but Dr. Chuck Morris, a hydrologist, said this term can be misleading.

"This just means that, on any given year, there is a one-percent chance there will be a storm like this," Morris recently told the Daily Guide. "The public wants to interpret a 100-year storm to mean that it will only happen once every hundred years, but this is not true. It means there is a one-percent probability of this occurring every year."
Morris, who is a professor emeritus at Missouri S&T and works with the Benton and Associates consulting engineer firm, said his firm is currently working with the City of Waynesville to analyze the floods, and also make recommendations for the future.
He and his colleagues presented some recommendations to the Waynesville City Council during the September council meeting. Since that time, Benton and Associates has submitted a contract to the city to complete an in-depth analysis.
"This will cover what happened from a hydrology point of view and what we could do to reduce flooding in the future," Morris said. "This will help Waynesville see how to reduce the (flooding) impact."
The ideas Morris and his team presented at the September meeting included increasing the amount of water that Mitchell Creek could carry during severe weather, or finding a way to reduce the overall amount of water that will have to run down the creek during these incidences.
He also said that removing gravel and potential blockages from the creek would help increase the amount of water the creeks can hold, which would be beneficial.
Morris said a number of factors played a part in why this summer's floods occurred on such a large scale.
"This was a significant rainstorm," he said. "The shape of the water shed, the soil, and the slope also played a role. That's what hydrology is all about. But obviously, no rainstorm, no flood."
Morris stressed that the public needs to be aware of the dangers of floods.
"The public seems to think this isn't going to happen again," he said. "After a few months or a year, people forget. But it will happen again. And we can't predict when, but we can get the probability."
Even though Morris and his team said what occurred this summer was a "100-year storm," and there is a one-percent chance of the storm coming every year, the likelihood may be even higher due to global warming.
However, due to the fact that the earth's warming trend has not been going on for a long period of time, he said it is hard to pin down an exact percentage of increased likelihood.

"We do our analysis based on historical data," he explained. "We've not been in the warming trend long enough (to be able to reliably use this information.)"
In regard to global warming in general, he said scientists have not sufficiently proven whether the earth's current warming trend is due to man, or if it is simply natural changes that are occurring.
"Obviously, putting carbon in the atmosphere affects (the temperature), but I don't think anyone scientifically has shown how much."
Whatever the reason for the warming trend, though, Morris said the trend is real, and it is causing more severe weather events to occur across the globe.
Morris said severe weather and floods will always occur to some degree, and because of that, people should always do what they can to be ready for potential floods.
"We can't prevent these floods from occurring, but we can better prepare," he said.