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Florida's Flood Risk is Bigger Than Anybody Imagined

Florida, often referred to as “The Sunshine State” is widely known for being home to the happiest place on earth, Super Bowl champions, and some of the most breathtaking beaches found anywhere in the world. Not only does the presence of those beaches increase the flood risk for Florida homeowners, but the state is also home to some gorgeous lakes. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an entity that also measures that amount of lakeshore when calculating a state’s total shoreline mileage, Florida has 8,346 miles of shoreline. That puts it second in the United States only to Alaska. In addition to the lakes that are found in Florida, the state has the unique distinction of being bordered by both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. While some homeowners in Florida are probably already aware of the flood risk that they’re facing, there’s a good chance that others are unaware of the hidden risk of flooding that their Florida homes are facing.

What is Florida’s Flood Risk?

With so many bodies of water in and around the state, it may seem obvious to say that Florida homeowners face a risk of flooding. However, the numbers could paint an even grimmer picture than many Florida residents realize exists. Risk Factor, a company that measures the flood risk of every state, city, and municipality in the nation reports that there are currently 2,365,064 homes in Florida that have a greater than 26% chance of flooding in the next 30 years.

The First Street Foundation, another company that studies and publishes reports on flood risk takes an even deeper dive into the numbers that focus on Florida’s flood risk. According to their study, there are 1.8 million homes in Florida that presently face a substantial risk for flooding. In even more startling news, that number is expected to increase by 19% by the year 2050. That increase of 341,000 homes will push the number of Florida properties at substantial risk for flooding to 2.2 million! Finally, The First Street Foundation reports that there are presently 313,000 properties in Florida that face certain flood risk, meaning that there is a 99% chance that they will flood at least once in the next 30 years.

These numbers are staggering in their own right, but it’s also important to look at them in context of some of the more popular data. Many entities such as real estate offices and mortgage lenders rely on FEMA’s study on Special Flood Hazard Areas, also referred to as an SFHA, when determining the flood risk that a property is facing. This data is used to determine the need for flood insurance on a given property.

Unfortunately, FEMA often underestimates the risk of flooding that properties are facing. This is largely due to the fact that FEMA relies heavily on historic data while minimizing the use of future projections. For instance, FEMA only acknowledges that there are 1.7 million homes in Florida at substantial risk for flooding. This difference of more than 100,000 homes is expected to grow to more than 455,000 homes by 2050.

Homeowners who rely solely on the data produced by FEMA may be at risk for flooding and not even know it. A cursory glance at those numbers indicates that the owners of at least 100,000 properties in Florida may be receiving faulty information, leaving them in the dark about the flood risk that they’re facing.

Studying Localized Flood Risk in Florida

While statewide information is certainly useful, it’s also important to take a look at the numbers on a localized level. Fortunately, The First Street Foundation includes this type of data in their nationwide report on flood risk.

Cape Coral, Florida has the distinction of having the greatest number of properties that are at any risk of flooding. There are presently 111,237 homes in Cape Coral that are at risk of flooding. That number represents 86% of homes in the area. To make matters worse, it is expected that 97% of Cape Coral properties (126,436) will be at risk for flooding by the year 2050.

Cape Coral, the city with the most flood-risk homes in Florida.

The city in Florida with the greatest relative growing risk is Golden Gate. Golden Gate, Florida currently only has 153 homes in the area that are at risk of flooding. While that number only represents 3% of properties in the city, the future is much bleaker. It is expected that 4,000 homes in Golden Gate will be at risk of flooding in 2050, which totals 76% of the properties in the area. This increase of 2,514% is one of the highest increases reported in The First Street Foundation’s report.

Finally, Florida has the most cities in the country in which 100% of homes are currently at risk for flooding. Lighthouse Point, Warm Mineral Springs, Whiskey Creek, and South Patrick Shores all have 100% of their properties at risk for flooding today. To make matters worse, 99% of homes in Naples Park, Siesta Key, McGregor, Wilton Manners, Charlotte Park, and Cortez are at risk for flooding in Florida. Of those seven cities, Naples Park and Wilton Manor are expected to reach 100% of homes at risk for flooding by the year 2050.

Why Is Flood Risk Increasing?

Florida’s unique shape and location certainly lend themselves to the risk of flooding. Since the state is bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side by the Gulf of Mexico, there are certainly large bodies of water that flank the state. As sea surface temperatures continue to rise (an increase of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit is expected by 2050 in both bodies of water), the risk for high-tide flooding will increase. In fact, Tides and Currents reports that there will be anywhere from 45 to 70 days of high tide flooding in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions annually by the year 2050.

Climate change also plays a key role in the increase in flood risk. Even while hurricanes are expected to become less frequent going forward, the chance for other weather events is increasing. As the atmosphere gets warmer, water evaporates from the earth’s surface at a faster rate. This abundance of moisture in the atmosphere leads to heavier rains which often cause flooding, lake overflows, and other flooding events.

What Can Homeowners Do?

Homeowners in Florida certainly need to take steps to protect themselves from the financial loss associated with flooding. That’s why consulting multiple sources when determining the need for flood insurance is such a good idea. Even if a mortgage lender doesn’t require flood insurance on a subject property, it may be because he or she is only looking at FEMA data. Homeowners who believe there is any risk of flooding at their property are certainly encouraged to obtain flood insurance. Doing so can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial loss.

It's also a good idea to install materials in a home that are less prone to flood damage. For example, EnduraFlood drywall is a water-resistant drywall that can withstand flooding. When traditional drywall gets wet, not only does it become unusable, but mold also begins to grow on it, in it, and around it within 24 hours of water exposure. While EnduraFlood can’t protect every part of your home from flood damage, it can help save thousands of dollars in drywall replacement following a flood.


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