Why Do We Still Use Sandbags in Floods?

sandbag 3The use of sandbags dates back to the Revolutionary War when a Chief Engineer was appointed in the Continental Army in 1775. It was discovered that sandbags being used for temporary military forts were also effective for fighting flood waters. By 1824, money was being set aside by Congress for improved river navigation along with road, railroad, and bridge construction. They began offering assistance for local flood disasters when state and local governments lacked the resources to do it alone. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today has the authority to inspect and strengthen flood control structures like levees and dikes and provide supplies and evacuation assistance.

This branch of the military conducts emergency flood response training every year including techniques in filling and using sandbags. The Corps’ districts maintain and store supplies of sandbags and other flood fighting materials to add to the stocks of state and local storage facilities. Back in 2008, several levees were breached in a portion of the Mississippi River located in St. Louis, MO. Nearly 13 million sandbags were provided and most were filled and stacked by the community.

The reason for using sandbags was the same during the Revolutionary War as it is now. They are cheap, easy to use, and consistently effective. We often still use the simple burlap bag filled with sand and now we’ve added the use of polypropylene plastic, made from the scraps of textile manufacturers to create an alternative that is just as cost effective. Add the use of shovels, sand, and hands, and building a 4 to 6-foot tall dike can be quickly achieved.

Most bags are shipped empty to prepare for use in advance of weather warnings, but can be pre-filled in an emergency when the timing is critical. Sand and soil are conveniently plentiful in any location such as local quarries providing sand for construction. The bags are reusable and the sand can be used on icy streets in the winter or used as fill material under roads or buildings later.sandbag 4

You may be using sandbags in the yard for landscaping purposes like retaining walls. Have you considered the low areas on your property and the possible need for flood control as well? It makes sense to have an emergency plan whether you live in a flood-prone area or not. There are plenty of man-made causes for flooding too so be aware of the possibilities for flooding in your area.

Floods often happen during hurricane season. The combination of water and rain overflows streams, rivers, and creeks, rapidly taking over and destroying roadways. It only takes six inches of moving water to knock a person down and two feet to carry your vehicle away. Many floods have prior warning signs, but flash flooding happens quickly and is the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. Having a few inexpensive sandbags stored in a dry area in case of emergency can reduce the toll on your family and home.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 at 9:35 am and is filed under Emergency, Flood Protection, NYP-Corp News, Sandbags.

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