- The most costly natural catastrophe in America is flooding.
- The changing environment is likely to have an impact on the ways and places we live.
- Louisiana, Florida and Kentucky are the most vulnerable to flooding in communities.
One-fourth of the United States’ “critical” infrastructure is at risk of flooding, a report released Monday warns.
The report pinpoints the nation’s flood risk to critical infrastructure, such as utilities, airports, ports and emergency services such as police, fire and hospitals. That’s in addition to residential properties, commercial properties, streets and local roads and social infrastructure such as schools and government buildings.
“Our research aims to establish the level of flooding which would make infrastructure either inoperable and inaccessible,” explained Jeremy Porter, of the First Street Foundation. Porter prepared the report.
First Street Foundation is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit research and technology group that works to define America’s flood risk.
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In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, flooding is the most expensive natural disaster in the United States and has cost the nation more than $1 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1980.
The report, titled “The Third National Flood Risk Assessment: Infrastructure on the Brink,” takes into account all types of floods, including slow-motion river flooding, fast-moving flash flooding, coastal flooding and storm surge from the ocean.
According to report authors, floods are making national headlines. This has led to a growing awareness about the potential economic and social costs that flooding infrastructure can cause.
“As we saw a few weeks ago following the devastation of Hurricane Ida, our nation’s infrastructure is not built to a standard that protects against the level of flood risk we face today, let alone how those risks will grow over the next 30 years as the climate changes,” said Matthew Eby, founder and executive director of the First Street Foundation.
“The impact of Hurricane Ida stretched across the country, crippling the electrical grid in southern Louisiana, flooding the transportation infrastructure in the NYC metro area, and killing nearly 100 people,” the report notes. Our changing environment is likely to have a significant impact on the way and place we live.
States and cities most at risk
The highest concentration of community flood risk is in Louisiana, Florida, Kentucky and West Virginia: 17 of the top 20 most at-risk counties in the U.S. are in these four states, according to the report. Louisiana alone accounts for six of the top 20 most at-risk counties (parishes) and is home to the most at risk-county in the U.S., Cameron Parish.
When shifting focus from counties to cites, a large percentage of the cities in the top 20 list is made up of cities from the states of Louisiana (three cities) and Florida (six cities). Among those cities, the major population centers of New Orleans (ranked 2nd); Miami (8th); St. Petersburg, Florida (12th); and Tampa (14th) all rank highly in the “most at risk” cities list.
Millions believe they are safe from flooding waters.They aren’t.
The report also found that risk to residential properties across the nation is expected to increase by 10% over the next 30 years; 12.4 million properties are at risk today, and 13.6 million will be at risk of flooding in 2051.
Over the next 30 years, because of the effects of climate change, an additional 1.2 million residential properties, 66,000 commercial properties, 63,000 miles of roads, 6,100 pieces of social infrastructure and 2,000 pieces of crucial infrastructure also will have flood risk that would render them inoperable, inaccessible or impassable.
“This report highlights the cities and counties whose vital infrastructure are most
at risk today and will help inform where investment dollars should flow in order to best mitigate against that risk,” Eby said.
Upgrades to infrastructure are often expensive
Upgrades to infrastructure can cost a lot. Matthew Kahn is a Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California. He was not part of this report.
If an area gains a reputation for being susceptible to extreme climate events, people won’t buy homes and businesses won’t house their headquarters there, Kahn said.
“Those cities that prove to not be climate resilient – they’re going to be at a disadvantage,” he said. “They’re going to have brain drain.”
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Knowing which parts of the United States are most susceptible to flooding can affect your homebuying decisions and how homeowners take steps to protect their property.
Those looking for a home have always taken location into account, considering factors such as crime rates and local schools. Kahn explained that the most recent factor to consider when homebuying is climate change.
A Bloomberg analysis of housing data in the U.S. from 2007 to 2017 found that average prices of homes in high-risk flood zones declined in value over the decade.
“You’re more likely to duck if you know the punch is coming,” Kahn said.
This site contains the entire First Street flood report.