While floods are the No. 1 disaster in the United States, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they aren't all built the same. There are those that can be so bad as to lead to mandatory evacuations, as well as those that cause minor inconveniences – so-called "nuisance flooding." Based on a new report, the East Coast tends to see these types of weather-related events more than other parts of the country.
Of the 10 major cities in the U.S. that have seen nuisance flooding – where high water levels cause temporary road closures and backed-up storm drains – eight are on the East Coast, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In fact, tracing back to the 1960s, nuisance flooding has risen between 300 and 925 percent combined on the South, East, and West Coasts.
Baltimore-area sees huge jump in nuisance flooding
Among specific cities, no metro area has seen more nuisance flooding than the Baltimore region. NOAA found that flood days in this part of the country increased 920 percent during the past 54 years. Port Isabel, Texas followed with an uptick of 547 percent and San Francisco at 364 percent.
Holly Bamford, Ph.D, assistant administrator for NOAA's National Ocean Service, noted that some of this problem is due to the effects of climate change.
"Achieving resilience requires understanding environmental threats and vulnerabilities to combat issues like sea level rise," said Bamford. "The nuisance flood study provides the kind of actionable environmental intelligence that can guide coastal resilience efforts."
William Sweet, Ph.D., a NOAA oceanographer and lead author for the report "Sea Level Rise and Nuisance Frequency Changes around the U.S.," pointed out that even moderate storms can now cause flooding, due to sea level increases.
"The effects of rising sea levels along most of the continental U.S. coastline are only going to become more noticeable and much more severe in the coming decades, probably more so than any other climate-change related factor," said Sweet.
Other parts of the country that have seen a sizable jump in nuisance flooding include Atlantic City, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Port Isabel, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C.
Home and business owners can recover from flood losses with flood insurance, but it's important to remember that this is not a standard part of business insurance or a personal plan. It has to be added on in order to take advantage.
From 2008 to 2012, the average flood claim was nearly $42,000, according to FEMA statistics.