Flood threatens to close a quarter of U.S. roads, critical buildings

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Scenes after heavy rains flooded a suburban parking lot in Reston, Va., With some cars completely submerged.

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A quarter of roads in the United States would be impassable in the event of flooding, according to a new study from the First Street Foundation that examines flood threats to critical infrastructure across the country.

The report estimates that more than 2 million kilometers of road are threatened by flooding. It also says the flooding could shut down a quarter of critical buildings and facilities, including airports, hospitals, government buildings, places of worship, museums and schools. The First Street study comes after a summer of flooding that killed dozens of people in the United States and destroyed billions of dollars in infrastructure.

Which communities are most at risk? The report identifies areas with “established flood risk,” such as the floodplains along the Gulf of Mexico and the southeast coast. But the First Street risk assessment also provides city and county level information for each state and Washington DC. says Jeremy Porter, head of research and development at First Street, a technology-focused nonprofit research group.

The report – First Street’s third national flood risk assessment – builds on its previous findings on residential properties. These new findings for roads, critical buildings and commercial properties are even more urgent, Porter says.

An aerial view of a Middlesex <a class=community as floodwaters blanket the streets after Hurricane Ida left flash floods behind on the east coast. A of the First Street Foundation estimates that more than 2 million kilometers of road are threatened by flooding.”/>

An aerial view of a Middlesex community as floodwaters blanket the streets after Hurricane Ida left flash floods behind on the east coast. A of the First Street Foundation estimates that more than 2 million kilometers of road are threatened by flooding.

Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“We actually found that 25% of all critical infrastructure was at risk nationwide, while only about 14% of residential properties were at risk,” Porter said. Of all property types, he adds, “residential properties were actually the least risky.”

These infrastructure risks will only worsen over time as flooding becomes more frequent and severe due to extreme rainfall and sea level rise fueled by climate change.

First Street found that while 2 million kilometers of roads are affected today, the number is expected to increase to 2.2 million kilometers in 30 years. Commercial properties can expect a 7% increase in the risk associated with flooding between 2021 and 2051. According to the study, 35,776 critical infrastructure is now threatened by flooding. This number would increase to 37,786 establishments by 2051.

A handful of measures to protect roads and construction infrastructure from flooding are included in two key pieces of legislation mired in Congress: the $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill and a 3,500 billion budget reconciliation program. billions of dollars.

But federal funding is just one part, Porter says. Resources like First Street’s Flood Factor tool, which allows people to determine their property’s flood risk as well as future projections, can help Americans act proactively. And big cities are already monitoring their flood risk. But smaller communities will need more help to strengthen flood protection.

“Miami, New York, they have the money, they have engineers, they can do a lot of things themselves. But the vast majority of communities across the country have no idea what their risk is.” , Porter says. “Part of this infrastructure bill includes a climate component, but there is also a [need] that communities understand their risks and demand the funds “that Congress is trying to push through.

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