New Flood Maps Downplay Risks in New Orleans

Recently released flood maps created by FEMA for the city of New Orleans are receiving criticism for being 'overly optimistic' when it comes to risks posed by hurricanes and rising sea levels.

1 minute read

June 3, 2016, 1:00 PM PDT

By jwilliams @jwillia22

New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina

NOAA Photo Library / Flickr

In an Op-Ed in The New York Times, Tulane University professor Andy Horowitz finds fault with the recently released flood maps for New Orleans that downplay risks in potentially vulnerable neighborhoods across the city. Horowitz writes that FEMA's original flood maps, drafted in 2009, were redrawn following complaints by New Orleans officials that they failed to take into account the new levee protections built after Hurricane Katrina. The new maps show no flood risks in many of the neighborhoods that flooded during Katrina, meaning homeowners in those neighborhoods no longer are required to buy flood insurance. Horowitz sees a potential catastrophe in the making.

[M]any of us will hold our breath through hurricane season nonetheless, because we know that the new maps reflect questionable assumptions. First, they assume that this time the Army Corps of Engineers’ work can be trusted, and the levee system will not fail again. ...a likely outcome of this new federal policy is that when — not if — New Orleans floods again, thousands of people will be worse off than they were during Hurricane Katrina: When their homes flood, they will not have flood insurance.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 in The New York Times

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