Flood Definitions

A Flood is an overflow of water onto normally dry land. 

Although floods may be categorized differently, one category may merge into another. Flooding happens when the inflow of water into an area is faster than the outflow. In addition to the surface pooling or localized ponding of surface water, the following types of floods may occur in Trinidad and Tobago:

Riverine flooding is an overflow of water from rivers. It occurs when a river’s water holding capacity is exceeded in an area and the river banks are compromised and may break or overtop. Riverine flooding usually occurs after periods of prolonged rainfall.

A Flash flood is a rapid onslaught of raging waters caused by heavy rainfall in relatively short periods (within a period of minutes to hours – usually less than 2 to 3 hours in T & T). Flash floods can occur in water courses as well as over land and they typically occur near the foothills of the Northern Range. Flash floods can occur with little or no warning and are very unpredictable.

Street flooding is a local term used to describe accumulation of water along the streets usually in urban areas that are commonly lower than the pavement areas. Street flooding may also occur in other areas where debris or litter impede the outflow of street water or where the drainage is insufficient alongside streets.

Coastal flooding is flooding in coastal regions that are not normally inundated with water. Coastal floods may originate from inland due to excessive or heavy rainfall that collects within or runs off into coastal areas. Coastal flooding may also occur due to inundation by higher than normal tides such as spring tides, storm surges, swell events, tsunamis or wind driven seas forced into the coastal areas.

What is a stream flow gauge?

A stream flow gauge is an instrument that measures the height of the water in a body of water, e.g. a stream or river.  These measurements are taken on a continuous basis to determine average heights of the stream and improve data collection, analyses and mechanisms for the prediction / modelling of flood risks and the underlying causes specific to each impacted area.

How does CFEWS address the issue and hazard of flooding in Trinidad and Tobago?

Based on the proposed Theory of Change, the CFEWS project will strengthen community and national capacities for generating impact-based flood early warnings and effectively planning and executing anticipatory actions.

Expected outcomes of the project include:

  • Enhanced capacities for detecting, monitoring, analysis and forecasting of flood hazards in seven communities – two in Tobago and five in Trinidad
  • Expanded flood early warning information communication/ dissemination platform to reach more communities, municipalities and governmental agencies
  • Enhance capabilities for the coordination and management of floods at the community and national levels and
  • Improved emergency response capacities in a crisis 

As such, these results will contribute towards flood risk informed planning and development across Trinidad and Tobago to reduce loss of life and infrastructure and minimize displacement and poverty.

How will the CFEWS project benefit the community in the long term?

The CFEWS project intends to build community capacities to prepare and respond to floods, formalize community engagement through the establishment of Community Hydrological Observers network and develop an interagency coordination mechanism. This mechanism will be supported with a flood management plan and SOPs for issuing warning will allow for the sustainability of the benefits in the beneficiary communities. It will also create a pool of resources (human and governance) that can be called upon to support scaling-up and replication in the future.

What is/are the most critical action(s) for: individuals in mitigating or preparing for floods?

Consistent and planned maintenance of properties – particularly roofs, disposal of white goods and other garbage in an appropriate manner and responsible construction.  We build houses on stilts to avoid floods and then go and fill in the open spaces, which then become at risk for floods.

What is/are the most critical action(s) for: communities in mitigating or preparing for floods?

Keep water courses clear of debris and keep in contact with your local authorities to ensure the cycle of maintenance is maintained.  Be your brother’s keeper – say something if you see illegal construction that is diverting the course of the river because ultimately it may cause a flood that will cost you. Keep in contact with your Disaster Management Coordinators and help those in the community, who may not be able to collect sandbags or other aids to mitigate the impact of floods.