New York's Risk of Storm-Surge Flooding May Increase

February 21, 2012; 5:52 AM ET
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A fire truck drives through a flooded street in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. Seawater surged into the streets of Manhattan as Tropical Storm Irene slammed into New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A study released by the researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Princeton University reported that New York may have an increased risk of storm-surge flooding due to the likelihood of more hurricanes with impacts similar to those from Hurricane Irene.

Impacts from Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc along the Eastern Seaboard as the storm made its way up the coast on the weekend of Aug. 26-28, 2011. At the height of the storm, there were at least four million people without electricity. Flooding in the East Coast states was widespread with many areas receiving more than eight inches of rain.

In New York, the hamlet of East Durham recorded 13.30 inches of rain. The storm surge along the coast of New York reached 4 to 5 feet. Battery Park recorded the sixth-highest water level ever, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Frank Strait.

Climate Change Increases Risk of Major Storm Surges

In a study conducted by MIT researchers Ning Lin and Kerry Emanuel with Princeton University researchers Michael Oppenheimer and Erik Vanmarcke, hurricane and hydrodynamic models were coupled to simulate storm conditions under projected climates. The researchers then assessed the surge threat.

When they applied their findings to New York City, they found the change of storm climatology will probably increase the surge risk. They predict the current 100-year surge flooding could occur every three to 20 years. The study also reported that the present 500-year surge flooding could occur every 25-240 years by the end of the century.

Senate Works to Pass Five-Year Flood Bill

A bipartisan bill, offered by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and David Vitter (R-La.) addresses flood insurance issues. The current National Flood Insurance Program is set to expire on May 31 if there is no extension.

The proposed bill will raise premiums for new flood insurance customers and raise the annual increases on existing nonresidential homes and businesses by 15 percent. It would also require people with homes behind levees and dams to purchase flood insurance for the first time, if their mortgage is federally regulated.

The bill would also allow the continued remapping of floodplains, which is currently being undertaken by FEMA. Homes in the floodplain areas that have a one percent annual chance of flooding are required to purchase flood insurance. Some of the modernized maps show larger floodplains with more homes within them.

Tester and Vitter have expressed their belief that if the bill comes to the floor for a vote, it will attract the 60 votes needed to pass.

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