The Stream, June 30, 2020: Independent Data Suggests Hidden Flood Risk to Millions of U.S. Properties

The Global Rundown

A new map of flood risk in the United States claims that almost 6 million more properties are vulnerable to flood damages than previously thought. Puerto Rico declares a state of emergency as more than a quarter of the island succumbs to severe drought. Heavy monsoon rains force more than a million people to evacuate their homes in the Indian state of Assam. A new study analyzes the benefits of salt marshes in preventing coastal flooding. Torrential rainfall continues to wreak havoc in China, shifting to the eastern coast. 

“Millions of home and property owners have had no way of knowing the significant risk they face.” –Matthew Eby, founder and executive director of First Street Foundation, a group of academics and experts that assembled a new map showing flood risks across the United States. The guide, called Flood Factor, allows users to enter an address and see potential flood risks over the next several decades. First Street’s data takes sea-level rise, rainfall, and smaller creeks into consideration and claims that a total of 14.6 million properties are at risk from a 100-year flood event. In comparison, federal flood data estimates that only 8.7 million properties face the threat of a 100-year flood. First Street notes that their model may overestimate flood risk in some areas, such as small municipalities. The New York Times

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By The Numbers

14 million Chinese citizens across 26 provinces that have been affected by flooding in recent weeks. The flooding, which has resulted in the loss of 27.8 billion yuan ($3.93 billion), had thus far been confined to the southwest part of the country. This week, however, the torrential rainfall is expected to shift toward China’s eastern coast. Reuters 

2,000+ Villages in the Indian state of Assam that are experiencing heavy monsoon flooding, with more rain expected over the next three days. More than a million people have evacuated their homes and two drownings had been reported as of Monday afternoon. Reuters 

Science, Studies, and Reports

A new study led by the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research looked at historic flood data and found that salt marshes and other coastal wetlands can be instrumental in serving as a buffer in the face of coastal flooding. Data from the 1953 North Sea flood, a major flooding event that hit the Netherlands, Belgium, and the United Kingdom, shows that salt marshes act as “wave absorbers” and appear to lower flood depths. The researchers suggest that developing salt marshes or similar coastal wetlands could serve as a natural and sustainable means of coastal flood mitigation. NIOZ

On the Radar

A quarter of Puerto Rico is experiencing severe drought, prompting Governor Wanda Vázquez to declare a state of emergency. Another 60 percent of the island is experiencing moderate drought. Beginning on July 2, around 140,000 Puerto Ricans will be subject to 24-hour water cuts every other day to help ration supplies. Associated Press 

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