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The North American Cities Most at Risk of Flooding

Friday, February 24, 2017 14:54
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The climate is rapidly changing. Arctic scientists believed the polar ice caps would not melt for hundreds of years, but now the collective perception is that the environment is far worse shape than they had thought. In fact, scientists say the Arctic could have ice-free summers by 2050. The influx of fresh water pouring into the oceans is wreaking havoc on weather patterns, which are dictated by the current. This is why 2017 was the hottest on record. Not only is the causing sea levels to rise, but storms are increasingly more severe, causing floods in North America’s most vulnerable cities.

What is a floodplain?

Although there is the obvious risk to low-lying cities on coast like New York and New Orleans, there are also North American cities inland that are prime flood areas.

“Any areas of the city that are at lower elevations are typically more prone to flooding. Water has less ways of escaping, and tends to ‘pool’ and collect in these areas during rapid rainfalls,” says Chris Cavan, Vice President at Toronto-based City Wide Group waterproofing.

A floodplain is an area of land along a stream or river that stretches flat to where the elevation becomes higher, such as a valley. Essentially, when the river reaches max capacity, water flows over its banks and floods the surrounding area.

North American cities most at risk of flooding:

  1. New Orleans, LA

Elevation: -6.5 to 20 ft (-2 to 6 m)

(Image courtesy of AP)

Two shots taken of downtown New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina in 2004 and 10 years later. New Orleans is the most vulnerable floodplain in North America because most of the city is located below sea level along Lake Pontchartrain. In fact, 98 per cent of New Orleans’ populated area will be under water by the end of the century regardless of current efforts to curb carbon emissions. 

     2. Miami, FL

Elevation: 6 ft (2 m)

Miami, the capital of Latin America, is one the city most vulnerable to flooding in North America. The combined factors of inclement weather, including the risk of hurricanes, along with rising sea levels, makes southern Florida a precarious floodplain. If sea levels continue to rise at its current rate, then Miami will one day cease to exist

     3. New York City, N.Y.

Elevation: 33 ft (10 m)

(Image courtesy of BIG Team/Rebuild)

This is a rendering of the “Big U,” a proposed flood proofing solution consisting of a park and barrier that wraps around the southern tip of Manhattan. 

    4. Calgary, AB

Elevation: 3,428 ft (1,045 m) 

The 2013 Alberta flood was caused by heavy rainfall that swelled 5 rivers in the Calgary area. The Alberta government called it the worst flood in the province’s history.

   5. Boston, MA

Elevation: 141 ft (43 m) 

Charles Street flood, 1955.

6. Halifax, N.S.

Elevation: 0 to 793.6 ft (241.9 m)

  1. Toronto, ON

Elevation: 76 m (249 ft)

The 2013 Toronto flood was the worst in Ontario’s history and caused more than $850 million in property damage. 

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