MapLab: The Hidden Risks in U.S. Flood Maps

This spring, the U.S. Midwest and Southeast were deluged by rain. More than a month’s worth of wet stuff dropped in a single day in some areas, with flash floods hitting Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Florida. Downpours in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri caused record crests on the Mississippi River, at least $3 billion in damage, and three deaths.

Yet the vast majority of properties affected by this unprecedented soak were not insured by the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides federally backed flood insurance policies for homeowners and renters to protect their homes. According to environmental researchers and disaster protection watchdogs, part of the reason is that FEMA, the U.S. agency that administers the insurance programs, fails to adequately communicate flood risk to people who settle in vulnerable areas.

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