While many people think of New Jersey as nothing more than New York’s neighbor, or as the state that is next to Manhattan, New Jersey actually has 130 miles of coastline. Additionally, that 130 miles of coastline can be divided up into three different types depending on the purpose of the classification scheme. Additionally, New Jersey had the highest population density of any state in the US, as reports indicate that there are 1,195.5 people every square mile! While many people don’t think of New Jersey as an area that typically faces the risk of floods, the amount of coastal mileage and the high population density means that there are thousands of people living in The Garden State who face flooding. What’s even more alarming is that many of them may not know that.
What is New Jersey's Flood Risk?
According to First Street Foundation, flood risk in New Jersey is increasing significantly. A recent study published by the foundation indicates that there are more than 385,000 homes that presently have a substantial risk of flooding. Based on environmental studies and current trends, that number is expected to increase by a staggering 19.1% over the next 30 years, bringing the total number of New Jersey homes that are at risk for flooding to 459,000. In a state that already has such a densely gathered population, that number is especially troubling for homeowners.
When put into context with other states, the flood risk for New Jersey homeowners only continues to grow. First Street Foundation has done some future projections which take anticipated environmental changes into consideration. When those anticipated changes are factored in, it is expected that the number of properties that will be facing substantial flood risk across the country will increase by 10.9%, bringing the total to 16.2 million. When those projections are broken down by state, New Jersey is third, with a projected 19.1% of new homes entering a state of substantial flood risk. Homeowners in New Jersey who don’t find themselves facing substantial risk still aren’t out of the woods. First Street also completed projections for homes that will face any flood risk by 2050, and an additional 20% of New Jersey homes fall under that category.
Localized Flood Risk in New Jersey
In addition to the statewide data provided by The First Street Foundation, there is also data that shows what New Jersey cities are at the greatest risk for flooding. Homeowners who live in any of these cities should be sure to take steps to protect themselves against flooding.
Wildwood, New Jersey currently has the most homes in the state that are at risk of flooding with 4,371 homes facing flood risk. That number represents 98% of homes in the city. That number is expected to grow to 4,417 homes by 2050 which will represent 99% of homes in the area.
Nearly every home in Wildwood, New Jersey, is in danger of flooding.
Ocean City, New Jersey currently has 17,255 homes that are considered at risk, and that number is expected to increase significantly over the next three decades. The First Street Foundation expects 19,786 homes in Ocean City to be at risk for flooding.
Finally, Bradley Beach, New Jersey, which currently only has 20 properties at risk is expected to see the greatest amount of relative growing risk. By 2050, it is expected that there will be 848 properties at risk for flood damage by 2050.
The Source of New Jersey Flood Risks
High tide flooding, which is often referred to as “nuisance flooding,” “king tides,” or “sunny day flooding” is a problem that is typically experienced by people who live on the coasts. As we’ve already established, there is 130 miles of coastline in New Jersey, so thousands of homes are at risk for high tide flooding.
A study published by Tides and Currents indicates that high tide flooding is expected to take place anywhere between three and seven times over the next year. While there are millions of miles of coastline in the United States, the same report indicates that the Northeast Atlantic region, which includes New Jersey, is expected to see some of the highest levels.
This high tide flooding is a direct result of global warming and climate change. When considering an area like New Jersey where the population is so dense, one must also realize that there are more fossil fuels being burnt in the area. With metropolitan areas like Manhattan so close, it’s certainly no surprise that climate change induced flooding is more likely to happen in areas where fossil fuels are burnt at a higher-than-normal rate.
Tides and Currents has also forecasted major weather events for the next 30 years, and the information that they’ve uncovered is incredibly troubling for homeowners in these problem areas. While there is only expected to be three to seven days of high tide flooding in the next year, that number is expected to increase to somewhere between 45 and 70 days per year by 2050.
Bad Flood Data Is Misleading Homeowners About Their Risk
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation floating around out there concerning the flood risk for New Jersey homeowners. For instance, many insurance companies rely on FEMA flood data to determine flood insurance premiums. They also use this information to determine whether or not a homeowner is required to have flood insurance on a home when obtaining a mortgage. While FEMA certainly provides a lot of valuable information, it can be argued that some of the data they rely on doesn’t give homeowners the full picture regarding flood risk.
FEMA typically relies on something called the hundred-year flood map when determining a property’s risk for flooding. Essentially, they go back 100 years and see how often a certain property floods. The number of floods over the last century then dictate the level of danger that FEMA assigns to a property.
For homeowners in New Jersey, the difference in that information compared to First Street Foundation’s flood projections is staggering. According to FEMA, there are 8,100 properties in New Jersey that are currently less likely to flood than there were in the past. However, since First Street Foundation looks at weather projections, environmental change trends, and other data, they estimate that there are 73,600 more properties at substantial risk for flooding.
This difference in information leaves New Jersey homeowners in a confusing spot. If they choose to only acknowledge the data published by FEMA, they may not take the steps necessary to protect themselves from the financial loss associated with tidal flooding. However, with so much other information out there, they can make a more informed decision about taking the steps to protect their homes and themselves.
What Can Homeowners Do?
While most mortgage lenders require applicants to obtain flood insurance on an area that is deemed a flood risk by FEMA, there are certainly no laws prohibiting homeowners from obtaining insurance even if their property isn’t in a risk area on the FEMA map. Homeowners who don’t live in an area that FEMA has designated as high risk should consult other sources to determine the risk that they may be facing. Having flood insurance is one of the most responsible steps that any homeowner can take.
Additionally, there are other steps that homeowners can take. Flood damage goes far beyond the loss of a home’s contents. When a home floods, flooring is destroyed, and in most cases, drywall has to be replaced. In the most extreme cases, homes are written off as a total loss, leaving homeowners left with no choice but to start over from scratch. Opting for durable materials, such as EnduraFlood waterproof drywall can help you protect your home from damage associated with flooding.
Homeowners in New Jersey should be aware of the risk of flooding that they’re facing. If you are a New Jersey resident, be sure that you’re monitoring the data produced by multiple outlets to determine what steps you can take to protect your home, yourself, and your family.