When many people think about New York, they picture Wall Street, Times Square, or another bustling metropolitan area. What they don’t realize is that New York has 520 miles of coastline. That means that The Big Apple has more coastline mileage than Miami, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles combined! This mass amount of coastal property should also be looked at in the context of population density. There are approximately 417 people living in every square mile of property in New York. With all of that information in mind, it’s important that homeowners in New York understand the hidden risk of flooding that they face every single day.
What Is New York's Flood Risk?
Risk Factor is a company that examines the flood risk of every area in the United States. While there are plenty of platforms out there that look at historical data only, companies such as Risk Factor and The First Street Foundation combine a study of historical data with future projections. They then combine those pieces of information to determine what sort of flood risk an area is looking at.
According to Risk Factor, there are 685,638 homes in New York that have greater than 26% chance of being severely impacted by flooding some time over the next 30 years. That figure represents approximately 17% of all homes in New York!
Homeowners in New York aren’t exactly strangers to flooding. For instance, a recreated model of Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge in October of 2012 showed that 122,217 properties were impacted by that event. Risk Factor does acknowledge that major weather events like hurricanes are less likely to impact New York going forward, but flooding associated with heavy rainfall is expected to increase in frequency.
In addition to Risk Factor, The First Street Foundation has also compiled data that should alarm homeowners in New York. According to their study, there are currently 73,490 homes in New York that are at substantial risk of suffering flood damage.
The First Street Foundation, another company that studies present and future flood risk indicates that there were 615,500 homes in New York at risk for flooding in 2020. That number is expected to increase significantly by 2050. The First Street Foundation reports that there will be 688,800 homes in New York at risk for flooding by 2050, an increase of 12%.
Local Details Concerning New York’s Flood Risk
According to calculations from The First Street Foundation, there are 998,600 properties in New York that face some level of flood risk over the next 30 years. Of that nearly 1 million properties, 172,800 face nearly certain risk, with a 99% chance of flooding at least once over the next three decades.
New York, New York faces the greatest risk in the state, as there are currently 121,200 properties that are currently at risk. That number represents 14% of the total properties in New York City. In addition to New York City, there are other cities and municipalities that are also at risk. Since there are fewer residential properties in these cities, they actually face the risk of seeing a greater percentage of their homes damaged by flooding.
For example, Hornell, New York has the highest percentage of properties in New York that are at risk for flood damage with 75% of homes meeting the criteria. Fire Island, New York, which currently has 2,846 (68%) properties at risk is expected to see an increase of 3,222 at-risk properties over the next three decades.
Buffalo, New York also appears at the top of The First Street Foundation’s study on New York. There are currently 24,613 properties in Buffalo at risk for flooding, and that number is expected to go up to 25,144 in the next 30 years. That number will represent approximately 27% of homes in Buffalo.
Syracuse also appears near the top of the report, even though the population in the city isn’t as high as some of the more populated areas of New York. 19% of homes in Syracuse (7,968) are currently at risk for flooding. It is expected that there will be 8,264 homes in Syracuse at risk for flooding by 2050.
Finally, Merrick, New York is expected to see the greatest relative growth for flood risk in the next 30 years. Even though there are currently only 1,847 homes in Merrick at risk for flooding, that number is expected to increase to 5,016 by 2050.
Why Is the Risk Getting Worse?
Changes in the environment produce new weather patterns, higher sea levels, and other factors that contribute to an increased risk of flooding. In an area like New York where there is such a heavy use of fossil fuels, environmental changes are inevitable. As the atmosphere continues to get hotter, evaporation happens faster resulting in an increased amount of moisture in the atmosphere when it rains. These factors are directly related to the increased flood risk for homeowners in New York.
What Can New York Homeowners Do?
When assessing your flood risk, knowledge is power. While many insurance companies and mortgage lenders rely on information published by FEMA, that information only paints part of the picture. FEMA’s study on Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) primarily looks at flood data from the last 100 years to predict what properties are at risk for flooding. While the past can certainly be used to help predict the future, it’s important to apply expert projections that include expected climate change and weather-related events.
Additionally, homeowners should make sure that they are insured against the risk of flooding. While mortgage lenders and insurance companies often require flood insurance on certain properties, they typically rely on FEMA’s information to decide which homes need flood insurance. Homeowners in New York should consult other sources, such as the Risk Factor and The First Street Foundation to better determine if they live in an at-risk property.
Finally, homeowners in New York who believe they are in flood danger can help protect their home from flood damage. When water gets into a home, the damage can be astronomical. In addition to the loss of contents, flood-damaged homes often need to be refloored. Additionally, drywall that is exposed to water is usually ruined as mold and mildew can begin to grow within 24 hours of drywall getting wet. Installing flood-resistant materials such as EnduraFlood drywall can help protect homes against the damage associated with a flood.