A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. In the sense of â€œflowing waterâ€, the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide. Flooding may result from the volume of water within a body of water, such as a river or lake, which overflows or breaks levees, with the result that some of the water escapes its usual boundaries. While the size of a lake or other body of water will vary with seasonal changes in precipitation and snow melt, it is not a significant flood unless such escapes of water endanger land areas used by man like a village, city or other inhabited area.
Floods can also occur in rivers, when flow exceeds the capacity of the river channel, particularly at bends or meanders. Floods often cause damage to homes and businesses if they are placed in natural flood plains of rivers. While flood damage can be virtually eliminated by moving away from rivers and other bodies of water, since time out of mind, people have lived and worked by the water to seek sustenance and capitalize on the gains of cheap and easy travel and commerce. People love to live by water despite the dangers.
The word â€œfloodâ€ comes from the Old English flod, a word common to Germanic languages (compare German Flut, Dutch vloed from the same root as is seen in flow, float; also compare with Latin fluctus, flumen).
Many cultures have stories of tremendous floods that occurred in the past.
In many countries across the world, rivers prone to floods are often carefully managed. Defences such as levees, bunds, reservoirs, and weirs are used to prevent rivers from bursting their banks. When these defences fail, emergency measures such as sandbags or portable inflatable tubes are used. Coastal flooding has been addressed in Europe and the Americas with coastal defences, such as sea walls, beach nourishment, and barrier islands.
Remembering the misery and destruction caused by the 1910 Great Flood of Paris, the French government built a series of reservoirs called Les Grands Lacs de Seine (or Great Lakes) which helps remove pressure from the Seine during floods, especially the regular winter flooding.
London is protected from sea flooding by a huge mechanical barrier across the River Thames, which is raised when the sea water level reaches a certain point (see Thames Barrier).
Venice has a similar arrangement, although it is already unable to cope with very high tides; a new system of variable-height dikes is under construction. The defences of both London and Venice would be rendered inadequate if sea levels were to rise.
The Adige in Northern Italy was provided with an underground canal that allows to drain part of its flow into the Garda Lake (in the Podrainage basin), thus lessening the risk of estuarine floods. The underground canal has been used twice, in 1966 and 2000.
Another elaborate system of floodway defences can be found in the Canadian province of Manitoba. The Red River flows northward from the United States, passing through the city of Winnipeg (where it meets the Assiniboine River) and into Lake Winnipeg. As is the case with all north-flowing rivers in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, snowmelt in southern sections may cause river levels to rise before northern sections have had a chance to completely thaw. This can lead to devastating flooding, as occurred in Winnipeg during the spring of 1950. To protect the city from future floods, the Manitoba government undertook the construction of a massive system of diversions, dikes, and floodways (including the Red River Floodway and the Portage Diversion). The system kept Winnipeg safe during the 1997 flood and which devastated many communities upriver from Winnipeg, including Grand Forks, North Dakota and Ste. Agathe, Manitoba. It also kept Winnipeg safe during the 2009 flood.
In the U.S., the New Orleans Metropolitan Area, 35% of which sits below sea level, is protected by hundreds of miles of levees and flood gates. This system failed catastrophically, in numerous sections, during Hurricane Katrina, in the city proper and in eastern sections of the Metro Area, resulting in the inundation of approximately 50% of the metropolitan area, ranging from a few centimetres to 8.2 metres (a few inches to 27 feet) in coastal communities. In an act of successful flood prevention, the Federal Government of the United States offered to buy out flood-prone properties in the United States in order to prevent repeated disasters after the 1993 flood across the Midwest. Several communities accepted and the government, in partnership with the state, bought 25,000 properties which they converted into wetlands. These wetlands act as a sponge in storms and in 1995, when the floods returned, the government did not have to expend resources in those areas.