Examining the 100-year Floodplain as a Metric of Risk, Loss, and Household Adjustment

Duration: 2011-2013
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Funding Amount: $312,801
PI: Sam Brody; Co-PIs: Wesley E. Highfield, Michael Lindell
Research Assistants: Russell Blessing, Joshua Gunn, Tak Makino, Patrick Doty


As flood losses continue to increase in the United States, recent evidence suggests that the 100-year floodplain (the primary marker of flood risk and mitigation) is neither accurate nor sufficient in guiding communities and household decisions to mitigate the adverse impacts of floods. The inability of the floodplain designation to effectively capture the likelihood of property loss has left potentially millions of property owners unaware of the flood risk and has made it more difficult for local decision makers to ensure community development occurs in a resilient manner. This project examines the effectives of the 100-year floodplain in predicting property damages from floods and offers improved criteria for assessing risk of inundation in low-lying coastal areas. First, we will spatially examine the record of insured property damage at the household level from 2000-2009 for a sample of coastal counties along the Gulf of Mexico. Second, we will analyze statistical models to predict insured property damage from floods using proximity and built environment measures not traditionally used to determine floodplain boundaries. Finally, we will conduct a survey of households claiming losses both in and out of the floodplain to understand the perceptions of flood risks and motivations to mitigate their potential adverse impacts.
This research will provide important information to decision makers on how to implement more precise strategies to reduce the costs of floods at the local level. An improved understanding of flood risk will enable localities to better protect themselves against loss of property and lives in coastal areas. Research findings will also help individuals living outside the floodplain, but still at high risk for flood damages reduce the chances they will experience devastating losses in the future. To this end, a major part of the research project will be to deliver findings that can be easily accessed and understood by both public officials and local residents. First, we will integrate our data on flood loss and areas of risk an existing web-based GIS system that currently serves as a technical assistance and outreach tool. Second, we will work with local neighborhoods that have become hotspots of flood loss to increase awareness of the problem and provide options for reducing future loss. Third, we will bring results from our study into the classroom as part of graduate and undergraduate studies across two college campuses. Through these approaches, we will ensure our research findings assist local governments and individual households on how to better reduce the negative impacts of coastal flooding in the U.S.


For questions about the Center:

Dr. Sam Brody
Ocean and Coastal Studies Building
1001 Texas Clipper Rd
Galveston, TX 77551
Bldg. 3029, Room 366
Phone (409) 740-4939
Fax (409) 740-4429


CTBS Partners

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