WASHINGTON, D.C. — From Washington state to the Virginia shore, flooding can affect America from coast-to-coast, and everywhere in between.
“It’s kind of scary, just not knowing what to do,” said Washington state resident April Young, whose community was ravaged by floods last month.
Now, flooding from rain events and higher-than-normal tides are becoming more of the norm due to climate change.
“All of a sudden a storm hits and you’re like, ‘Wow, that was a lot of water,’” said Jeff Orrock, a meteorologist in Virginia with the National Weather Service.
Recently, First Street Foundation, along with the engineering firm Arup, undertook a massive examination of every commercial property in the country –- from office buildings to apartment complexes -- and looked at their flood risk.
“It's not just residential properties that are at risk,” said Matthew Eby, who founded First Street Foundation. “[Commercial properties] are at such a high level of risk across the country that it's really this untold story that's now being uncovered.”
Looking now and 30 years into the future, the states with the most commercial real estate at risk from climate change-related flooding include Florida, followed by New York, with Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts, Texas, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio and Washington rounding out the top ten. The potential impact of flooding on commercial properties could add up to billions of dollars in lost revenue for local economies.
“When we think about flooding in this country, we think about FEMA and we think about the National Flood Insurance Program because that's what's reported out a lot,” Eby said. “But really, a hidden risk that lies within flooding is around these commercial buildings because they represent so much more from an economic standpoint for the local community.”
The report shows that flooding damage to commercial buildings, which could leave them inoperable for periods of time, would potentially impact states with revenue losses in the billions of dollars, some of which pay for things like road maintenance and emergency services.
“The hope of bringing this up is that each individual state, each individual county or city, can look at their risk overall and start to pull together a holistic plan that not only just looks at the residential properties and how to protect them, but overall commerce itself,” Eby said, “because the two need to go hand-in-glove to really get to a full solution to protect citizens and the overall well-being of the economy.”
For a look at the flood risk of any property go to floodfactor.com and type in your address. It uses publicly-available data to show you the risk of flooding for that location both now and 30 years into the future.