71% Increase In Very Heavy Precipitation In Last 54 Years, 831,000 Pennsylvanians Living At Risk On Floodplains

A new report issued by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Friday found “very heavy precipitation” has increased by 71 percent over the last 54 years in the Northeast and Pennsylvania putting the 831,000 people living on floodplains in the state at even more risk of flooding.

But it is not just people living on floodplains, the report noted.  People living outside mapped floodplains are also vulnerable to flooding; for example, recent floods in places such as North Carolina highlighted the risk to those well beyond the floodplain.

Of the citizens affected, many are “older, less financially able to absorb the increased premiums, living in homes less valuable, and in communities where any negative effect on the tax base will have a serious multiplier impact.”

While many properties have been flood-proofed to some degree, they still face high premiums in the National Flood Insurance Program, a particular challenge for smaller, more rural communities.

Coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program is significant in the state. Of the 2,562 municipalities in the Commonwealth, 2,467 participate.

NFIP payments have been crucial to recovery from flooding in Pennsylvania.

From 1978-2015, there were 69,055 NFIP claims filed in 1,982 different jurisdictions (55 cities, 685 boroughs, 1,242 townships).

The total value of claims was around $1.134 billion, with an average value of $16,400 per claim (not adjusted for inflation).

The largest number and value of claims have been filed in Bucks, Montgomery, Luzerne, Dauphin, and Allegheny counties.

The National Flood Insurance Program is due to expire on September 30 without action by Congress.


Among the recommendations in the report are--

-- PA: Integrated Statewide Floodplain Management Program: Pennsylvania should: create a “comprehensive, integrated statewide floodplain management” program that addresses both flooding and stormwater and sets priorities on a statewide basis; significantly increase financial, staffing, and training support to meet statewide needs; create a center of excellence; provide for county-level coordination and local implementation, including Community Rating System and Hazard Mitigation Plan actions; provide more funding for flood mitigation grants, loans, and/or tax credits; create robust data sharing and communication systems; update the “flood mapper” program; raise awareness of flood risk and mitigation options; and work to increase coverage through the NFIP/private insurance markets.

-- Feds: National Flood Insurance Reform: Congress should ensure a balanced approach to address the economic impact on Pennsylvania while addressing the NFIP’s insolvency.

Legislation should: explore ways to offer rate reductions, such as credit for structural mitigation measures; modify community-scale activities like the Community Rating System (CRS) so compliance can be done at a regional level; and identify other actions to improve flood risk and reduce future payouts.

FEMA should also provide accessible information about insurance rates, including subsidized rates, complete the FEMA affordability study, and continue to partner with state and local agencies on important flood risk/mitigation studies, weather/hydrologic forecasting and warning systems, and information sharing.

The report, Flood Mitigation For Pennsylvania’s Communities: Community-Scale Impact Of Federal Policies, was written by researchers from Penn State University, Bucknell University and Florida Gulf Coast University.

For more information on other reports and initiatives, visit the Center for Rural Pennsylvania website.

(Photo: Bloomsburg, Columbia County flooding during Hurricane Lee in 2011.)


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[Posted: Sept. 1, 2017]


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