Jeff Masters Weather Blog

How should we memorialize communities lost to floods? » Yale Climate Connections

In 1996, after suffering multiple floods, residents of the small community of Wakenda, Missouri, packed up and moved away.

Their homes were purchased and demolished as part of a government buy-out program.

Today, a granite monument topped with the bell from Wakenda’s Baptist church memorializes the community that was lost and honors the lives of those who left and started over elsewhere.

“The commemoration to them means that their stories are not forgotten,” says Elyse Zavar, an associate professor of emergency management and disaster science at the University of North Texas.

“I started visiting communities that had already gone through buyouts to see what the landscapes were looking like,” she says. “I was thinking, ‘I really want to know how they’re commemorating and remembering these past places.’”

Zavar says in her research, she found very few examples where bought-out properties had been memorialized on the landscape.

But she says commemorating homes and communities that have gone through buyouts can help former residents heal.

“Whether it’s a tree or whether it’s a plaque, a mural, whether it’s people coming back and revisiting a site annually to celebrate their memories there, that’s an important opportunity for us moving forward to remember where we’ve been and where we’re going,” she says.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media

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