Many American communities, including Everson, are struggling to catch up as climate change increases the risk of flooding.
The federal precipitation map for Washington State, which is the basis for infrastructure and flood risk decisions, dates from 1973.
In Whatcom County, where Everson is located, Federal Emergency Management Agency data suggests nearly 5,900 properties are in special flood hazard areas, indicating they have a 1 percent chance of flooding each year, and that purchasing flood insurance flood protection is almost always mandatory, Roberts said. The First Street Foundation, which incorporates climate data into a similar analysis, finds that about 14,500 properties are at risk there.
“The hundred-year flood definition hasn’t kept up with the changes we’re seeing, and right now it’s doing more harm than good because it’s more confusing for people,” Roberts said, referring to a common benchmark used to determine who needs it. insurance.
Flooding and housing
Flooding caused by a warming climate has turned Everson’s most pressing problem—housing—into an emergency.
Before the flood, Everson, like many communities across the US, was mired in a housing crisis. The pandemic only added fuel to a sizzling market as citizens sought homes near Everson — many seeking space and the Cascade mountain air.
Developers couldn’t keep up with the torrid growth. Some Everson residents couldn’t keep up with rising prices. The local housing authority has in recent years restricted who can join its waiting lists for public and subsidized housing because those queues have stretched for several years.
Whatcom County had a 1 percent vacancy rate for rental apartments before the flood, according to the Washington Center for Real Estate Research. Meanwhile, home prices in the county rose about 23 percent from the first quarter of 2021 to the same period in 2022. Then, flooding forced 300 families out of their homes and into that dismal rental market. It also led to the closing of low-income apartments in Everson, an acknowledgment that parts of this community could not be restored even though they have been there for decades.
“The housing crisis — it’s just compounding whatever effects the flood had,” Perry said. “I don’t think we’ll ever catch up.”
For Perry, the part-time mayor of Everson, the floods shook up almost everything in his life.
Perry’s grandson was caught in the floodwaters and asked Brevik to pick him up. Fourteen properties Perry’s family manages in nearby Sumas were flooded, forcing tenants to leave and requiring repairs.
After the waters receded, Perry began to take on the dual, and sometimes dueling, responsibilities of housing Everson residents and leading the town’s recovery, while also seeking permanent solutions to redirect future floodwaters or to move people out of their way.
During an early May visit to Everson, many homes were left exposed, with sandbags and flood debris still littered for several feet. Residents continued to live in hotels, in caravans outside their unlivable homes or with friends elsewhere. Some teetered on the edge of homelessness.
Source : www.nbcnews.com