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Flooding could shut down nearly 25% of U.S. infrastructure, climate study warns

By Jake Thomas
Flooding could shut down nearly 25% of U.S. infrastructure, climate study warns
Monday's assessment found that nearly a quarter of all roads, stretching close to 2 million miles, are at risk of becoming impassable.  File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Nearly a quarter of roads, hospitals, power stations, water treatment facilities and other critical infrastructure in the United States is at risk of becoming inoperable because of flooding, a study of the issue said Monday.

The study, by the First Street Foundation, examined the 30-year flood risk for every city and county nationwide and says many key pieces of infrastructure were found to be vulnerable.

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Researchers used flood threshold data to calculate the flood risk for the areas, the non-profit climate group said.

"Changing environmental conditions are driving worsening flood events, with consequences for counties, cities, towns, and local communities," the study says.

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"Individuals whose homes were spared the impact of a particular flood event are increasingly likely to find their local roads, businesses, critical infrastructure, utilities, or emergency services affected by flooding, indirectly threatening their quality of life, safety, and well-being."

The report identified Louisiana, Florida, Kentucky and West Virginia as the states with the greatest infrastructure risk from flooding. Louisiana, in fact, has six of the 20 most at-risk counties -- and the nation's most at-risk county in Cameron Parish.

Monday's assessment found that nearly a quarter of all roads, stretching close to 2 million miles, are at risk of becoming impassable. One-fifth of all commercial properties, 17% of social infrastructure facilities and 14% of residential properties are also at risk.

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Further, the risks are only expected to grow as a result of of climate change, the report's authors said. For residential properties, the danger is projected to rise by 10% over the next 30 years; for roads, they say it will increase by 3%; and for commercial properties, the figure rises by 7% over the next three decades.

"As we saw following the devastation of Hurricane Ida, our nation's infrastructure is not built to a standard that protects against the level of flood risk we face today, let alone how those risks will grow over the next 30 years as the climate changes," First Street Foundation founder Matthew Eby said in a statement.

And fixing the problems will be costly, the study notes -- but some experts say areas that are most vulnerable will see other costs if they don't upgrade.

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"Those cities that prove to not be climate resilient -- they're going to be at a disadvantage," Matthew Kahn, professor of economics at the University of Southern California, told USA Today.

"They're going to have brain drain."

Congress is presently working on a large bipartisan bill to upgrade and repair U.S. infrastructure.

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