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Is your property a flood risk? New tool shows millions are, including entire Florida towns

Alex Harris, Miami Herald on

Published in Home and Consumer News

A new app designed to rank the flood risk for every property in the U.S. has some distressing findings for Florida.

The cities with the most properties at risk are all over the state -- from Tampa, the city most at risk to storm surge, to Cape Coral, which Politico memorably dubbed "the boomtown that shouldn't exist," to sunny-day flooded Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

But the data reveals rarely mentioned cities where virtually every home is at risk of flooding today. They include the 5,000 homes in Sarasota County's Warm Mineral Springs, the 4,000 homes in the upscale Broward County boaters' haven of Lighthouse Point and the 2,000 Caloosahatchee River-front homes of Whiskey Creek.

Similar efforts to gauge a property's risk -- for profit or for free -- have been done in the past, but Flood Factor is the first such effort to include the combined flood risk from rain, storms, rivers and rising seas. Experts say access to information like this could shift the real estate market and discourage buyers from the riskiest properties.

Flood Factor, which launched Monday, offers detailed information on current and future flood risk on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 denoting 'extreme' risk. And Miami-Dade County has a lot of risk.

A map of the county using this data shows the barrier islands, as well as much of the coast, as a deep red highest danger zone. The light orange representing moderate flooding doesn't appear until well past the coastal ridge, the ancient coral reefs that form the spine of rare high ground spine in the region.


But that's not exactly news for South Florida, a hot spot for hurricanes rendered increasingly more destructive by climate change and no stranger to rising tides brought by the unchecked pollution of the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. For decades, studies have shown Miami-Dade is particular is one of the most vulnerable places on Earth to climate change thanks to its low lying geography.

A future of more flooding and storms is already driving up insurance rates and driving down home prices. The cost to hold the sea at bay is in the billions already, and preparation for the two feet of sea rise expected by 2060 has barely begun.

According to this new tool, 35% of Florida's 8.9 million homes are at risk of at least minor flooding right now and 10% of those, or 900,000 homes, are currently at risk of severe or extreme flooding.

Flood Factor is the creation of First Street Foundation, a non-profit research group focused on the relationship between property value and climate change. Previous work includes FloodiQ, a tool that estimates how much value a property has lost due to sea level rise. McKinsey, the global consulting firm, used First Street data in its report that shows Florida real estate at risk of flooding could lose 5 to 15% of its value by 2030 and 15 to 35% by 2050.


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