Flood maps used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are outdated and underestimate the risk to homes and businesses from flooding and heavy rainfall caused by climate change, said FEMA Director Dean Criswell.
These risks are in the spotlight following flooding in Jackson, Mississippi, which overwhelmed the city’s main water treatment plant a week ago, leaving more than 150,000 residents of the state’s capital region no safe water. Criswell said there is no timeline for restoring service.
“I think the part that’s really difficult right now is that our flood maps don’t take into account the excessive rain that’s coming,” Criswell said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday. “And we’re seeing these record-breaking rainfalls that are happening.”
Complicating matters, she says, is that climate-driven extreme weather is difficult to predict, or whether a city or urban infrastructure will survive.
“We need to start thinking about what future threats will come from climate change,” Criswell said.
The 2020 flood risk assessment by the nonprofit group First Street Foundation, which analyzed every property in the contiguous 48 states, found that federal maps underreported homes and businesses in serious danger by 67%.
“FEMA maps are focused on river and coastal inundation right now, and we are working with local jurisdictions to update the maps,” Criswell said.
The Jackson water crisis shows how America’s water systems were built for a climate that no longer exists. The black-majority city is also suffering from a lack of investment, crumbling infrastructure and more extreme weather.
Federal, state, and local governments are distributing bottled drinking water in Jackson and are working to increase the pressure and run the treatment plant.
Jackson Chokwe Mayor Antar Lumumba said on ABC’s This Week that he is “optimistic” about progress on restoring safe water within a few days.
“Even when the pressure is restored, even when they don’t boil us. the question is not whether these systems will fail, but when they will fail,” he said. “There are so many points of failure.”
“We are not only seeing age…and wear and tear on our system, but also the effects of climate change,” Lumumba added. “We have colder winters, hotter summers and more annual rainfall, all taking a toll on our water infrastructure.”
– With the assistance of Jan Fischer
About the photo: Vehicles drive over the Pearl River Bridge during a water shortage in Jackson, Mississippi, USA on Thursday, September 1, 2022. The Mississippi governor called in the National Guard to help residents of the state capital after a plant accident left at least 180,000 people in the area without access to safe water.
Copyright 2022 Bloomberg.
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