Authored by Sara Weathers
A recent report published by First Street Foundation has raised the alarm about the increasing flood risk faced by more than half of the U.S. population residing in counties likely to experience stormwater system failure due to heavy rainfall.
A staggering 17.7 million properties across the country are exposed to substantial flood risk, surpassing the estimates provided by FEMA's 1-in-100-year Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). First Street Foundation’s report underscores the urgent need for accurate federal rainfall data and highlights flood insurance's critical role in protecting property owners from potential devastation.
The report highlights the reliance of federal agencies, notably the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and FEMA, on outdated precipitation data. It emphasizes the necessity for accurate and up-to-date rainfall data to effectively assess flood risks and provide informed flood insurance coverage to vulnerable areas.
The FEMA SFHA currently considered the authoritative flood risk information standard in the U.S., must catch up in accounting for precipitation-related flood risks. This inadequacy means that over half of the country's flood risk still needs to be accounted for.
First Street Foundation’s modeling reveals that NOAA's classification of 1-in-100-year precipitation events occurs in more locations than previously estimated. As a result, 51% of the population is now more than twice as likely to experience what local communities would traditionally consider a 1-in-100 year flood.
Flood insurance emerges as a crucial protective measure for homeowners in regions at risk of flooding. While FEMA's Risk Rating 2.0 includes current pluvial (flash flood) risk in its flood insurance policy premium estimates, the agency's reliance on historic SFHA maps for insurance requirements leaves homeowners needing to be more informed about their flood risk. Flood insurance that accounts for updated flood risk assessments and takes into consideration precipitation data is essential to ensure property owners are adequately protected in the face of potential floods.