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Climate Change Challenges

Coastal Surge Flooding

Climate change is causing more frequent and intense flooding from coastal storms and sea level rise.

Our coasts are vulnerable to flooding as a result of coastal surges, which happen when large amounts of water from the ocean rushes onto land, with potential damages to coastal communities and infrastructure. New York City’s low-lying areas are currently exposed to coastal surge flooding by tropical storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, and cold season nor’easters. During a storm, winds can push water towards the coast, causing storm surges. Coastal surge flooding is also exacerbated by sea level rise, which is associated with climate change. Since 1900, sea level in New York City has risen by about 12 inches and is projected to continue to increase as much as 6.25 feet by 2100, leading to increased frequency and intensity of coastal flooding.

Coastal Surge Flooding Impacts

Coastal storms can severely damage New Yorkers’ homes and personal belongings. Repairing damages to a home, including mechanical systems and plumbing or replacing belongings, can be costly and place financial strain on homeowners, renters, and businesses, and especially on low-income households that may already be struggling. FEMA estimates that 1 inch of water can cause as much as $25,000 in damages.

Coastal surge flooding can also impair critical community facilities like schools, libraries, spaces for youth and senior services, and cultural sites. These spaces serve as support centers during and after storms. Coastal surge flooding can disrupt and damage critical infrastructure ranging from energy and to wastewater treatment plants. Critical facilities, infrastructure, and services may be inaccessible to residents during or after a coastal surge event due to damage and potential power outages.

Coastal storm surge flooding not only directly impacts the public health and lives of people, homes and businesses in the floodplain but cascading impacts from the flooding can impact critical city infrastructure—such as power plants, hospitals, or transportation networks—in surrounding areas. These impacts can interfere with people’s ability to move around the city before, during, and after coastal storms.

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When we bring our voices, our action, and our advocacy to our schools, our homes, and our workplaces, we can create a more sustainable and resilient future for the 8.6 million people who call our five boroughs home.

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