Flooded With Ignorance: Being Aware of the Larger Community

by Courtney Wight '26 on November 12, 2023


Over the course of the past week, parts of Providence and Rhode Island suffered from severe rainfall, which led to flash flood warnings being issued for those in the Providence metropolitan area. The rain caused parts of Branch Avenue to completely flood as businesses, homes, and roads were damaged.

The flooding began with rain on Sunday which led to the cancellation of the final day of the PVDFest, a highly anticipated yearly event that ended in vendors picking up broken merchandise and event goers seeking shelter in parking garages. The severe thunderstorms on Sunday were just the beginning of last week’s relentless rain.

The worst of the flood damage was caused on Monday as the city received six inches of rain in a single day. This has led to roads becoming flooded as well as homes and businesses sustaining intense damage.

The areas that were affected by the storm were not noticed by many on campus. The surrounding neighborhood of Providence College’s campus was greatly affected. However, since the damage was not apparent on campus the effects of the storm have gone unknown to many students.

Students were able to continue on as usual, while the area nearby experienced homes being flooded and families losing their belongings. These types of severe storms will continue as the planet becomes warmer. With the planet warming every year, these severe weather events will increase in frequency.

These floods could be seen as an instance of environmental injustice since those most marginalized were hit hardest. David Radcliffe, Director of Providence Fire Department and Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), stated that the flooding on Branch Avenue was worsened due to “climate change and more asphalt — that’s a bad combination.”

Providence Mayor Brett Smiley held a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 12, in the flooded area on Branch Avenue. Smiley responded to questions about the seriousness of the flooding by saying work is being done to improve drainage systems and improve the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier, which is a part of the city’s hurricane barrier system.

Yet, this barrier is closest to the most affluent in the city and there are concerns for those farthest away from the barrier in less affluent communities. Smiley claimed that the sewage improvements would be done “throughout the city, including low-income and marginalized communities.”

While all those on the planet will feel the consequences of climate change, environmental injustice causes those who are minorities or low-income to be disproportionately impacted by climate change. 

The most recent floods should be a warning sign for future environmental injustice. Steps must be taken to prevent an act of environmental injustice in Providence, including calling out officials on policies that disproportionately affect marginalized communities. Providence College students have continued on with their biggest inconvenience of walking in the rain while those living on nearby streets must now rebuild their homes and lives.