• The most costly natural catastrophe in America is flooding.
  • Our changing environment will likely continue to impact the places and ways we live.
  • Louisiana, Florida and Kentucky are the most vulnerable to flooding in communities.

A new report Monday warns that flooding is threatening one-fourth the US’ critical infrastructure.

This report identifies how the flood threat to national infrastructure is being assessed. It includes utilities, ports, emergency services such as fire and police and ambulances like fire and police.

“Our goal is to find the extent of flooding that renders infrastructure inoperable, or impossible to access,” stated Jeremy Porter from the First Street Foundation.

First Street Foundation is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit research and technology group that works to define America’s flood risk.

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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), flooding has been the costliest natural catastrophe in America since 1980. It has also caused more than $1 trillion of inflation-adjusted dollar losses. 

The report, titled “The Third National Flood Risk Assessment: Infrastructure on the Brink,” took into account all types of floods, including slow-motion river flooding, fast-moving flash flooding, along with coastal flooding and storm surge from the ocean. 

According to report authors, floods are making national headlines. This has led to a growing awareness of the financial and human costs that flooding 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.

According to the report, Hurricane Ida caused widespread damage in America, including the destruction of the electricity grid in Louisiana, the flooding of the NYC transportation system, and the deaths of nearly 100 people. Our changing environment will continue to impact the places and ways we live. This is evident now more than ever.

States and cities most at risk

The report shows that Louisiana, Florida and Kentucky are the most vulnerable to flooding. West Virginia is home to 17 of the 20 highest-risk U.S. counties. Louisiana, which is home to Cameron Parish (the most at-risk county) alone, has six of the 20 highest risk parishes.

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. 

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According to the report, the national risk of residential property loss is predicted to grow by 10% over 30 years. There are 12.4 million homes at risk and 13.6million at risk from flooding in 2051. 

Over the next 30 years, due to the impacts 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 critical infrastructure will also 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.

It can be costly to upgrade infrastructure

But infrastructure repairs can prove costly. Matthew Kahn from the University of Southern California, who is not a part of the report, stated that high-risk flood areas without adequate flood prevention investments have hidden costs.

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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It is important to understand which regions of the United States are susceptible to flooding. This will also affect how homeowners choose to purchase homes and what efforts they make to protect their home.

People looking to buy a house have long considered the location of their home, taking into consideration factors such as crime and schools. Kahn stated that climate change risks are the latest factor in home-buying.

An analysis by Bloomberg of U.S. housing data between 2007-2017 found that the average home price in flood zone high-risk zones fell over the past 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.

Source: USAToday.com

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