Flooding Disasters Cost Billions in 2016

Impacts hit owners of homes and businesses across the country

Flooding disasters

Onlookers stand at the edge of floodwaters washing over Highway 58 in Nashville, North Carolina, in October 2016. Hurricane Matthew's torrential rains triggered severe flooding in the state, where thousands of people had to be rescued from their homes and cars.

© Chris Seward/The Charlotte Observer/AP

Flooding is the costliest and most common natural disaster in the U.S., claiming lives, inflicting financial losses on households and businesses, and straining the government agencies that provide flood response and relief. From 1980 to 2013, flooding cost Americans more than $260 billion in damage; from 2006 to 2015, federal flood insurance claims averaged $1.9 billion annually. The pattern continued in 2016, with the federal government declaring 36 disasters involving floods or hurricanes. As of the end of December, the damage from four of the storms that triggered those declarations was estimated to exceed $1 billion each.

As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Jan. 17 reported a $4 billion loss for 2016 and revealed that it had borrowed $1.6 billion from the federal Treasury to pay National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) claims. We start 2017 with the program nearly $25 billion in debt. Here are some of the numbers behind that story. 

Flooding disasters
Flooding disasters

It is critical for the nation to prepare before natural disasters occur in order to increase safety, protect property, and decrease costs. At the federal level, Congress must support increased investment in pre-disaster mitigation as well as in innovative strategies to help reduce costs and save lives in an era of catastrophic weather.

Laura Lightbody directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ work to reform federal flood disaster policies to better protect communities and the environment. 

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The Financial Toll of Flooding—Part 1

Episode 8

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It’s hurricane season—and extreme weather events are on the rise. Along with the catastrophic losses that families face after the flood is the economic burden on taxpayers through the National Flood Insurance Program. It’s the financial lifeline for those who carry flood insurance and an essential funding source for both disaster preparation and recovery efforts. However, the program is also $25 billion in debt, and more than a quarter of that total is from properties that flood repeatedly. It’s a growing issue affecting more than just coastal cities.

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Raised house

Vulnerable Communities Are Using Innovative Financing to Prepare for Natural Disasters

Spending on mitigation now will save lives and taxpayer dollars

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As natural disaster costs continue to climb, homeowners, communities, and the federal government will be challenged to make wise financial investments that will help save lives and lower the costs of future storms.

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State flood mitigation plans

States Expand Preparation as Floods Increase Nationwide

A fact sheet series

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Flood events are becoming more intense across the United States, affecting the physical and economic stability of communities and threatening human lives and delicate ecosystems. Every part of the country is vulnerable to losses from increased flooding; in the past five years, all 50 states have experienced flood events. Federal, state, and local entities share the responsibility for weather-related disaster preparedness and response. This series of fact sheets examines the flood risks, mitigation efforts, and associated costs for states.

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Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

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How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

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What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

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