With the recent impacts of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, there are rising concerns about flooding in Florida. Florida’s east and west coasts and inland cities saw immense flooring due to these storms.
In addition to flooding brought by natural disasters, sea levels are expected to rise anywhere from a couple of inches to over a foot, further contributing to severe inundations.
Flooding is becoming more frequent and intense across the sunshine state. By 2050, it is predicted that moderate flood damage will occur ten times as often as it currently does, according to this article.
This article will analyze the Florida flooding situation, evaluate risk in different flood zones, and highlight mitigation efforts in cities like Miami.
Key Factors Contributing to Flooding in Florida
Various factors contribute to flooding in Florida, such as hurricanes and tropical storms, excess rainfall brought by climate change, rising sea levels, and increased development. Let’s take a look at how these factors are contributing to flooding.
1. Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
Since 2017, Florida has experienced 18 tropical storms and hurricanes, according to NOAA data. The four major hurricanes (category 3 and above) since 2017 resulted in storm surges and rainfalls that flooded Florida’s coast and inundated inland areas.
For example, Hurricane Ian in 2022, one of the most powerful storms to ever strike the United States, caused a storm surge of 13 to 15 feet in Lee County, Florida. As a result, over 60 miles of coastline in Southwest Florida saw flooding between one and two stories high (10-20 ft.), according to the Washington Post. Additionally, the inland flooding stretched from Arcadia to Orlando.
2. Excess Rainfall
Climate change brings more storms and rainfall to Florida, resulting in more frequent flooding. Additionally, these storms are more severe. During the past 60 years, precipitation levels during rainstorms have increased by 27% in the Southeast, according to the EPA.
As a result, Florida receives five percent more annual rainfall than the previous 30-year average, according to a climatologist at Florida State University.
3. Rising Sea Level
Sea level is expected to rise by 6 inches in the next 15 years due to climate change, according to this source. The EPA predicts that if the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, Florida’s coastal sea level will likely rise one to four feet in the next century.
An increase in sea level causes wetlands and dry land to become submerged, erosion on beaches, and exacerbates coastal flooding.
4. Increased Development
As Florida continues to grow and develop, there’s an increase in impervious areas, which changes drainage patterns, concentrates stormwater runoff, and prohibits water from entering the ground. Drainage systems are typically designed to accommodate these changes; however, intense storms can overwhelm them and result in flooding.
Areas Prone to Flooding in Florida
Coastlines are generally more prone to flooding, and Florida has 8,436 miles of title shoreline. However, all areas, including those inland, can experience flooding and are exposed to risks due to the state’s flat topography and a near-sea-level elevation.
Some cities are more prone to inundation or could be significantly affected by sea level rise. In this section, we’ll name a few.
Cape Coral’s low-lying terrain has a relatively high flood risk due to storm surges and heavy rainfall, says a Florida Gulf Coast University marine biologist. In addition, the city is situated on a network of canals, which can exacerbate flooding during heavy rain or storms, events that are becoming more intense and frequent. There’s also a risk of more severe hurricanes in the future.
Miami, especially Miami Gardens and Miami Beach, is at high risk for flooding due to its low-lying terrain and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Sea level rise is a major concern for Miami as it could increase the frequency and severity of flooding in the area.
Additionally, the city’s extensive urbanization, including the paving over of natural wetlands, which can absorb excess water, has increased the risk of urban flooding.
Tampa, located on low-lying terrain next to the Gulf of Mexico, is susceptible to storm surges, heavy rainfall, and tropical storms, which can exacerbate flooding. In 2020, the First Street Foundation Flood Model estimated that 58,414 properties in the city were at risk of flooding, the second highest amount behind Cape Coral.
According to this source, Jacksonville’s flood risk has increased over recent years and will significantly rise over the next 30 years. Storm surges, heavy rain resulting in flash flooding, and rising sea level threaten this city. In addition, the St. Johns River, which runs through Jacksonville, is known to flood during heavy rain or storm events.
Using FEMA’s interactive National Risk Index map, check out the flood risk in other Florida cities and counties.
Flooding Mitigation Efforts in Cities Like Miami
Cities like Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Fort Lauderdale have already begun addressing concerns for flooding and rising sea levels by implementing preventative measures such as:
- Building flood walls
- Preserving natural wetlands
- Constructing stormwater management systems
- Raising roads and buildings
- Improving drainage systems
- Maintaining flood protection infrastructure like levees and pump stations
- Building new infrastructures at higher elevation
- Restoring shorelines, dunes, coral reefs, and natural protection areas
As pressure increases to address flooding in these cities, we will likely see more flood prevention and mitigation projects being rolled out.
Miami Flooding Risk Mitigation
Miami directs its efforts towards raising the elevation of homes and roads, constructing more buildings farther inland, and preserving open spaces in low-lying areas to accommodate flooding.
- Sea walls: Miami Beach plans to build a 20-foot seawall to protect the city from storm surges. Although, there is hesitation about the effectiveness of a seawall and its impact on wildlife and fresh underground water.
- Elevating roads and buildings: Many streets and buildings in Miami are being re-constructed or breaking ground at higher elevations to protect them from flooding caused by storm surges and sea level rise.
- Flood-proofing: The city is investing in new infrastructure like pump stations and stormwater management systems.
Other Cities Taking Action
Tampa has implemented measures to mitigate flood risk, such as constructing stormwater management systems and preserving natural wetlands that help absorb excess water. In addition, the city encourages people to protect natural floodplain areas and dispose of debris properly.
Jacksonville’s mitigation efforts include building and maintaining flood protection infrastructure like levees and pump stations. These projects aim to protect the freshwater supply and maintain water levels for flood protection. In addition, new buildings must be built to at least two feet above the base flood elevation in flood zones and hazard areas, compared to the previous one-foot standard.
Fort Lauderdale has implemented measures such as installing flood protection infrastructure like seawalls, raising roads and buildings, and improving drainage systems. In addition, the city has recently launched its largest stormwater project in history and will implement it in two neighborhoods struggling with flood mitigation.
Flooding in Florida is becoming more of an issue as climate change and weather events increase. The key factors contributing to flooding are hurricanes and tropical storms, excess rainfall, rising sea levels, and increased development.
Cities like Miami are implementing measures to prevent property damage and reduce risk. While some initial steps have already been made, there is still a lot of work to be done.If you live in an area that's flood (or natural disaster) prone, be sure to have a Grab + Go Box on hand and review our Flood Preparedness Checklist so you know how to prepare, evacuate, and recover from any of these emergency situations.