GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A new study is showing many more homeowners may be at risk for flooding.
The study from North Carolina State University suggests that recent flood maps from FEMA may not be capturing the whole picture. FEMA’s 100-Year Flood Map determines building and insurance requirements for communities, but now researchers say even more homes may actually be at risk.
Project Researcher Elyssa Collins said this is concerning for people deciding whether or not to purchase flood insurance.
“Floods are one of the costliest natural disasters in the United States, and they’re mitigated by implementing flood insurance and land use policies in high-risk areas known as floodplains, but previous studies have found that there are a lot of damages being reported out of these high-risk areas,” she said.
Collins and another project researcher, Georgina Sanchez, said their research found that 85% of reported flood events between 2006 and 2020, actually happened outside of the high-risk areas designated by FEMA.
“So this is telling us that there are communities across our nation that are susceptible to flood damage that our current management policies do not consider,” said Sanchez.
Dr. Antonia Sebastian is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina in the department of Earth, Marine, and Environmental Sciences. She said FEMA’s map is developed by determining areas with a 1% chance of flooding in a given year, saying they aren’t necessarily wrong, but, “they only represent flooding that’s caused by either riverine or storm surge, and so they don’t account for types of flooding that may be caused, for example, due to like heavy rainfall over a very urban area.”
All three researchers said their study created a map that takes a multitude of previously overlooked factors into consideration.
“These are models to create estimates of the likelihood of flood damage using our model … that includes monetary damage, injuries or loss of life from rainfall or riverine driven flooding,” said Collins.
They also said this study led to the first wall-to-wall map of flood risk for the entire nation. The data is currently available through the United States Geological Survey and could give homeowners a better idea of whether or not they should take flood mitigation measures on their property.