Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Nearly 70% more U.S. properties at high risk of flooding than federal government estimates; see county-level data

New York Times maps; click here for an interactive, county-level map.
Nearly 6 million more U.S. properties face a substantial risk of flooding than federal data indicates, according to new peer-reviewed scientific research. That could have big repercussions for rural residents who live near waterways.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which assesses properties' flood risk for the government via the National Flood Insurance Program, shows that 8.7 million properties are at a high risk of flooding. But the new research shows that 14.6 million properties face such risk. "The discrepancy exists, the group says, because it uses more up-to-date climate data, analyzes precipitation as a stand-alone risk, and includes areas FEMA has not," Amy Harder and Maema Ahmed report for Axios. Click here for interactive content from Axios, including ranked states, counties and areas at risk.

Residents of high-risk areas are required to buy federal flood insurance. "When FEMA does issue updated maps, politicians and homeowners often object, hoping to avoid higher federal flood insurance rates," The New York Times reports. Poor, rural residents lose out either way: increased insurance payouts could price them out of their communities, but without insurance, they could be left without help and unable to afford repairs when flooding hits, as happened in Florida after Hurricane Michael.

Recent studies found that the federal government needs to spend up to $12 billion to improve its flood maps. In the meantime, First Street is developing a free online database called Flood Factor aimed at helping real estate agents and prospective buyers get a more realistic idea of a property's flood risk.

First Street is a non-profit research and tech firm that developed its flood model with researchers and hydrologists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University and more.

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