You aren’t imagining it: flooding all across the U.S. is getting worse. Since 2010, floods have cost the nation nearly $40 billion. What’s more, people in states that never used to experience these issues are now struggling to keep their heads above water. And, like many other problems we’re currently facing, climate change may very well be to blame.
Although 95% of Americans live within an hour’s drive of a navigable body of water, that doesn’t mean every American home is well-prepared for a flood. The people of Louisiana might expect heavy flooding due to infrastructure issues and rainy seasons, but the issue has become much more widespread. People in states like Texas, Mississippi, and even Nebraska have recently been caught off-guard due to rapidly rising water levels. And even though some 14,000 people throughout the nation experience a water damage-related emergency at their home or place of employment every day, the situation has worsened considerably over the last few years — so much so that national flood insurance rates are set to increase substantially next year.
Experts say that while some issues specific municipalities experience could be alleviated with better city planning, the actual cause of the frequent and severe flooding truly lies with climate change. Since warmer air holds more moisture, the amount of rain that falls from the sky now amounts to more water than would have fallen in the past. According to NPR, some areas are already experiencing 50% more extreme rainfall since the 1900s. And since the ocean water is also warming up due to climate change, hurricanes are becoming more common and more destructive. In addition, the levees and floodgates built by many cities to provide protection from flooding are essentially rendered useless, as they can’t withstand the increasing amount of water falling from the sky and coming from rising rivers and other bodies of water. In some cases, those preventative measures can actually make the effects of flooding far worse.
The increase of rain has been welcomed by states like California, as the amount of U.S. land experiencing drought conditions has decreased to the lowest level we’ve seen in decades. With 36.2 inches of rain falling in the U.S. during May 2018 to April 2019, this has been the wettest year on record for the country. But with all that rain comes a spike in global warming-related disasters, as well as the inability to properly prepare for those disasters.
While the grass and trees might look greener than ever on the west coast, many people in midwestern towns are often forced to flee to save themselves from fatal flood conditions. But even though most citizens agree that something needs to be done, no one can quite agree on exactly what that something is — and whether or not the government will help or even admit there’s even a problem at all.