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At least 37 people have died following heavy rains in eastern Kentucky. Climate change is blamed nationwide for higher inland flooding risks, and coastal residents also face a greater risk of disaster. NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports.
REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: When there's water in the streets but not a cloud in the sky, that's called a sunny day flood or a high tide flood, and it's getting more and more common in coastal cities and towns because of sea level rise. William Sweet is an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
WILLIAM SWEET: By 2050, the number of high tide flood days rise between 45 and 70 days per year on average.
HERSHER: Seventy days a year when the ocean is so high that there's a flood. That's what the future holds, according to the federal government's annual report on such things. And that's just the average. In some places, the number of flood days will be much, much higher, like on the Texas and Louisiana coasts, for example.
SWEET: This part of the country, land is sinking - in some areas, faster than the ocean itself is rising.
HERSHER: The land is sinking because humans are pumping drinking water, oil and gas out from underneath, like deflating a water balloon that's holding up the land. And the ocean is rising because humans are burning fossil fuels. Add it all up, and you get a whopping 170 days of high tide flooding on the Texas coast by 2050. Basically, every other day, there will be a flood, which is particularly scary for people who live in flood-prone homes on the coast.
Joel Scata studies flood policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
JOEL SCATA: A home that's flooded before is likely to flood again.
HERSHER: So if you're buying a house, you probably want to know, has this place flooded before? But in a lot of states, no one is required to tell you about a home's flood history, which Scata thinks is a problem because people are buying houses they think they can afford when, actually, they'll likely end up with expensive flood damage.
SCATA: It's really important for homebuyers to have a right to know the flood risk that they might face by buying a home because the damages can be so high, it can be financially ruinous.
HERSHER: A new report commissioned by Scata and his colleagues looks at just how financially ruinous. It finds that owners of flood-prone homes in three coastal states will face an average of 35,000 to $90,000 in flood damage in the next 30 years. And the costs will only get higher as the climate gets hotter.
Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.
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