Oct 13, 2021 - News
Arkansas' flood risk rises
Data: First Street Foundation; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Arkansas buildings and infrastructure are at increased risk of flooding — severe enough to knock them offline in the next 30 years, a new study finds.

  • Of the state's 75 counties, 71 will have increases in flood risk during that time, though changes will mostly be below 1%.
  • Pope County, which borders the Arkansas River, will see the largest increase at 2.6%.

What's happening: The study is the first national inventory of flood risk that takes into account climate change-driven increases in sea levels and heavy precipitation events at the community level.

  • Researchers include homes, commercial property, critical infrastructure (like fire and police stations) and social infrastructure (like churches) in the calculations.

Why it matters: The report, from the First Street Foundation, has a warning for communities of all sizes: the U.S. isn't ready for the climate of today — let alone the extreme weather and climate events coming in the next few decades, writes Axios' Andrew Freedman.

  • Specifically, during the next 30 years as the climate continues to warm, the flood risk situation will grow more dire, the report warns.

Zoom out: About 25% of critical infrastructure in the U.S. and about 2 million miles of road are currently at risk of being made unusable due to flooding.

  • Nearly a million commercial properties, 78,000 social infrastructure facilities, and 12.4 million residential properties also have "operational risk," according to the analysis.
  • Over the next 30 years, an additional 1.2 million residential properties and 2,000 pieces of critical infrastructure will also be at risk of becoming inoperable.

Zoom in: Here's a look at the Arkansas cities with the highest proportion of risk of becoming inoperable due to flooding:

  • Helena-West Helena — 66.7% of its infrastructure.
  • Clarksville — 47.4% of its social infrastructure.
  • Rockwell — 44.2% of its roads.
  • North Little Rock — 26.7% of its residential and 51.8% of its commercial properties.

Of note: All of these cities are adjacent to large bodies of water.

The bottom line: The report warns the severity and frequency of flood events increase with a changing environment.

  • In Arkansas, an additional 1,763 residential properties, 451 miles of roads, 173 commercial properties, 6 infrastructure facilities, and 20 social facilities will be at risk of becoming inoperable.

What's next: The organization is making the new data available to the public via its Flood Factor website.

  • Researchers hope the data will help spark conversations at the local level.
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