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Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center
University of Colorado
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Boulder, CO 80309-0482

Quick Response Report #162

Flood Hazard Vulnerability: A Study
of Tropical Storm Allison (TSA) Flood Impacts
and Adaptation Modes in Louisiana

Francis O. Adeola

Department of Sociology
Environmental and Social Science Research Institute
University of New Orleans
New Orleans, LA 70148



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This QR report is available in its entirety only in PDF format. Below you
will find the abstract, acknowledgements, and introduction.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CMS-0080977. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center.

Citation: Francis O. Adeola. 2003. Flood Hazard Vulnerability: A Study of Tropical Storm Allison (TSA) Flood Impacts and Adaptation Modes in Louisiana Quick Response Research Report #162. Boulder, Colorado: Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado. URL:


Several communities along the Gulf Coast are especially vulnerable to tropical storms, hurricanes, and flood hazards. Systemic hydro-meteorological factors, geological conditions, and human factors account for most flood disasters in the region. This study focuses on the impacts of Tropical Storm Allison (TSA) of June 2001 in Louisiana. Shortly after the devastation of TSA with more than 2000 homes impacted in Slidell and Covington both in St. Tammany Parish of Louisiana, 149 households afflicted in Slidell communities participated in a survey designed to assess the impacts of TSA, vulnerability, coping and adaptation modes of the impacted population. Theoretical frameworks–including environmental inequity, human ecology, and conservation of resources models on these aspects of disasters are discussed. The results of the survey and data analyses addressing specific research objectives and questions are presented in this report.


A number of people and entity who contributed to the successful completion of this project deserve appropriate recognition and gratitude. I am indebted to the Natural Hazards Center which granted a Quick response grant for this endeavor. Special thanks go to Laura M. Zaidan of the City of Slidell Office of Emergency Preparedness Liaison for generously providing the list of residents impacted by Tropical Storm Allison's flooding. The efforts of my graduate research assistant, Michael A. Long, who diligently handled numerous tasks in different phases of the project and Wendy F. Desroche, an undergraduate senior who volunteered to participate in the door-to-door administration of survey instruments, are well appreciated. Nevertheless, all credits, interpretations, omissions, ambiguities or errors are the sole responsibility of the author.


Among all naturally occurring environmental hazards, flooding is the most common, claiming over 20,000 lives annually and adversely affecting approximately 75 million people across the globe (Smith, 1996, Alexander, 1993; Smith and Ward, 1998). Evidence suggests that floods represent the most costly natural hazard in the U.S. in terms of deaths, damages to infrastructures, properties, and destruction of crops and wildlife (Mileti, 1999:71-2). Floods are generally defined as the overflow of areas that are not normally submerged or a stream that has broken its normal confines or has accumulated due to the lack of drainage or failure of flood control structures (Malilay, 1997). Floods often accompany other hydro-meteorological conditions such as hurricanes and sea surges, as recently occurred in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Texas. The moment water levels rise above normal stages and overflow to the extent that the surrounding communities become vulnerable to rising water, flooding becomes a serious hazard. In addition to its physical impacts such as injuries, property damages, and deaths, flooding is often a major cause of health, economic and socio-psychological problems.

Most floods are induced by systemic forces such as hydro-meteorologic factors, geologic conditions, and seasonal variation in weather patterns. However, these systemic forces may be exacerbated by anthropogenic disturbances such as urban population encroachment on marginal low-lying riverine lands or swamps, improper construction techniques, and poor levees and drainage systems (see Abramovitz, 2001; David et al., 1999; Prater and Lindell, 2000). Absence or failure of flood control structures–i.e., levees, floodwalls, channels, etc., may exacerbate flood problems. As noted by Smith and Ward (1998:3), floods continue to be an increasing problem catching people and communities by surprise in a repetitively exasperating manner, and causing serious disruptions, extensive property damages, and loss of life across the globe.

This study focuses on the impacts of Tropical Storm Allison (TSA) which caused severe flooding in June 2001 in several communities in Louisiana. Specifically, factors associated with increased vulnerability of people to flood hazards and modes of adaptation and coping of flood victims are explored. Following the introduction, background information on flood events, research objectives, and theoretical frameworks are presented. Subsequently, the research methods and results are summarized with brief concluding remarks.

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March 5, 2002