Science & Nature

Deaths from Hurricane Ida Expose Flaws in FEMA Flood Maps


The New York City houses the place 11 individuals drowned had been in areas marked as low danger for inundation

An individual walks previous flooded houses in a Queens neighborhood that noticed huge flooding and quite a few deaths following an evening of heavy wind and rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on September 03, 2021 in New York City. Credit: Spencer Platt Getty Images

The New York City houses the place 11 individuals drowned throughout Hurricane Ida final month are situated in areas designated on federal flood maps as having low inundation danger, a senior member of Congress mentioned yesterday.

The disclosure by House Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) illustrates the shortcomings of the nation’s flood maps as Congress debates a historic spending provision for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mapping program.

Hurricane Ida killed 13 New York City residents, together with 11 who drowned in residential basements when file rainfall overwhelmed the town’s sewer system and brought on widespread flooding.

Maloney informed FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell throughout an Oversight Committee listening to yesterday that she had checked the addresses of these houses on FEMA’s interactive flood maps.

“I used to be shocked to seek out that each one of them are situated in areas marked as having minimal flood hazard,” Maloney mentioned.

Criswell acknowledged Maloney’s level and mentioned FEMA’s flood maps present areas that face a excessive danger of flooding from coastal inundation or river overflow, however not areas going through the kind of flooding brought on by Ida in New York City and different city areas.

“They don’t consider the storm sewer techniques,” Criswell informed Maloney.

The houses the place 11 individuals died are in central Queens, a number of miles from the borough’s flood-prone neighborhoods which are bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one facet and bays and inlets on the opposite. The victims included a 2-year-old boy and an 86-year-old girl.

Although New York City has skilled widespread flooding, solely metropolis neighborhoods which are adjoining to water are in FEMA particular flood hazard areas, that are purported to have a 1 % annual probability of flooding.

Many communities use FEMA flood maps to information growth and forestall or restrict constructing in flood-prone areas. FEMA makes use of the maps to find out which property homeowners are topic to a federal requirement to have flood insurance coverage.

Maloney, who represents a part of New York City, mentioned she was involved that native emergency personnel “generally use FEMA maps to find out which residences ought to be evacuated and what areas to prioritize after a flood.”

Criswell mentioned the flooding in New York City brought on by Ida is “an indication that our infrastructure has a possibility to be upgraded and mitigated once more so we will stop future flash flooding city occasions like this.”

Urban flooding has generated rising concern amongst flood specialists, who say it disproportionately impacts individuals of shade and low-income communities.

FEMA has acknowledged issues with its flood maps. It’s pointed to outdated maps and those who fail to incorporate extensive swaths of the United States the place flood danger is taken into account low.

The Senate-passed infrastructure invoice would give FEMA $3 billion for flood mapping—twice as a lot cash as Congress has allotted up to now seven years.

Criswell urged Congress to go the invoice, which additionally consists of $3.5 billion for a FEMA grant program to guard communities towards flood harm.

“I wish to add my voice at this time in calling for its swift passage,” Criswell informed the Oversight Committee through the digital listening to.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News supplies important information for power and surroundings professionals.


    Thomas Frank covers the federal response to local weather change for E&E News.

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