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Study: Emergency services, roads more at risk to flooding than homes in some Indiana cities

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Environment, Government, Statewide News, Weather
Parked cars in Tipton during the flood of 2013. Tipton was listed in the study as one of the most flood-prone cities in the state. (Courtesy of Tipton County)

Infrastructure like hospitals, power plants, and roads are at more of a risk for flooding over the next 30 years than residential homes. That makes cities’ most basic and critical operations less functional during a flood.

That’s according to a new study by First Street Foundation, a nonprofit risk mitigation research group. It aims to help cities prepare for floods and lessen the damage.

The report also identifies the most flood-prone cities in the state — many are near rivers or along Lake Michigan. The southeast Indiana town of Aurora is one of them.

Nicole Daily is the floodplain administrator for Dearborn County as well as the city. She said recently floods are more frequent in Aurora and the city is difficult to protect. It’s more than 200 years old and has a lot of historic buildings downtown very close to the Ohio River.

“You’re talking a lot of infrastructure and buildings, roads that would have to be re-routed, relocated in order to put a levee up. The room is not there,” Daily said.

Daily said some buildings in Aurora have started to use water-resistant materials — like concrete board instead of drywall.

She said while flooding doesn’t tend to impact Aurora’s emergency services — it can hinder road access to them. The study found more than 80 percent of Aurora’s commercial properties and social spaces — like churches and museums — are also at risk from flooding.

READ MORE: How Can Cities – And You – Prepare For More Flooding Due To Climate Change?

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Jeremy Porter with the First Street Foundation said the team was surprised to find that critical infrastructure and roads were at greater risk than homes — they assumed that infrastructure would have been designed with more protections.

“So now you have both your road network and your critical infrastructure, most at risk of flooding at the time when it needs to be most responsive,” he said.

Porter said often decisions about where to place critical infrastructure are based on outdated maps from FEMA that may not show a flood risk. You can check the risk of flooding at your home or in your city by going to floodfactor.com.

Contact reporter Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.