New Study Reveals Massive, Unaccounted Flood Risk

The Federal Emergency Management Agency undercounts the humber of homes at substantial risk of flooding by some 70 percent, according to a report released this week.

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June 30, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Chicago Extreme Weather

19 percent of the properties in Chicago are at substantial risk of flooding, according to the First National Flood Risk Assessment. | FeyginFoto / Shutterstock

Andrew Freedman, Brady Dennis, and Laris Karklis report on a report released Monday by the First Street Foundation, which finds that "there are at least 6 million households that are unaware they’re living in homes that have a 1 percent chance of flooding in each year — putting them within a '100-year' flood zone."

That total means there are nearly 70 percent more homes at substantial risk of flooding than included within the Special Flood Hazard Areas defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Homes included in Special Flood Hazard Areas are eligible for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Moreover, the number of at-risk homes is expected to grow as the effects of climate change worsen in coming decades. 

The nonprofit flood research and communications group First Street Foundation released the report to level the playing field between buyers and sellers, and democratize specialized flood risk analyses that insurance companies and consulting firms are producing but charge hefty sums to access, according to Freedman, Dennis, and Karklis. The report includes free flood risk maps down to the property level for 142 million properties in 48 states, and ranks cities by the percentage of properties at risk. Cape Coral, Florida leads the list, with 69 percent of its properties at risk in 2020—a figure expected to rise to 84 percent by 2050.

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