Thunderstorms, melting snow, costly hurricanes — they all add volume to the waterways in the United States. Normally, that’s not too much of a problem. If you live in an area with a top-notch sewer system and your home has a working sump pump, you should be fine. But some places have more homes in danger of flooding because they keep building in floodplains. For those living anywhere near these cities, it might be time to study up on flood insurance.
These cities and the counties they’re in had the largest floodplain population increases between 2010 and 2016, according to research and estimates from Governing. You might be shocked at the state housing four of the top five cities, which proves climate change is a nationwide problem. We’ve included the counties in which each city is located since local governments are usually in charge of authorizing large floodplain construction projects.
15. Pahrump, Nevada
Floodplain population increase: 54.6%
Pahrump and the rest of Nye County lie east of Death Valley and west of Las Vegas. There aren’t many natural bodies of nearby, but flash flooding in arroyos puts residents there in danger. In 2010, the county had roughly 9,300 homes in FEMA floodplains. By 2016, it had nearly 14,400.
Next: Let’s visit a major metro area.
14. Jersey City, New Jersey
Floodplain population increase: 54.7%
New York is one of the U.S. cities at risk from rising sea levels, and you have to include Jersey City and the rest of Hudson County, too. The Hudson, Hackensack, and Passaic Rivers all flow through Hudson County, so flooding is a major risk even without floodplain development. Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City, and North Bergen all have homes in danger of flooding.
Next: Rapid development increases the flooding risk.
13. Plano, Texas
Floodplain population increase: 55.2%
You might think that being located hundreds of miles inland would spare a place from dangerous flooding, but that’s not the case. Several creeks, points, and lakes, such as Lavon Lake, put Plano and the rest of Collin County in jeopardy. Plus, the rapid development, which replaces grassland with asphalt and concrete, decreases water absorption and increases potential flooding.
Next: Rivers and lakes put several towns in danger.
12. Peachtree Corners, Georgia
Floodplain population increase: 59.6%
Peachtree Corners in the western portion of Gwinnett County is the largest town, but it’s not the only one with homes in danger of flooding. Atlanta suburbs such as Norcross, Lilburn, Mountain Park, Rockbridge are also in danger. Lake Lanier to the north and the Chattahoochee River to the west put the Peachtree Corners and its neighbors in jeopardy.
Next: Plan your visit soon.
11. Miramar Beach, Florida
Floodplain population increase: 60.5%
If you enjoy Florida’s pristine beaches, such as Miramar Beach on the Gulf coast, you might want to travel there right now. Sea level rise threatens several cities in The Sunshine State, and flooding is a real problem in Walton County. In 16 years, it added an estimated 6,700 people who are living in flood-prone areas.
Next: Is this really one of America’s smartest cities?
10. Raleigh, North Carolina
Floodplain population increase: 68.1%
When you look at Raleigh’s total population and consider that its floodplain population is roughly 16,000, things don’t look so bad. But deliberately putting nearly 6,500 people in homes in danger of flooding probably isn’t a wise idea. Whatever happened to being one of America’s smartest cities, Raleigh?
Next: A big company’s headquarters could be in danger.
9. Rogers City, Arkansas
Floodplain population increase: 68.6%
Even though its home to Bentonville, a small town housing a huge company (Walmart), Benton County isn’t a major metro area. Still, Rogers City and its neighbors in northwest Arkansas added more than 6,200 floodplain residents, which is one of the largest increases in the country.
Next: Is it still one of the best places to live?
8. Carmel, Indiana
Floodplain population increase: 70.3%
Carmel is supposed to be one of the best places to live in America, but we’re guessing it’s not so great for folks with flooded houses. With the White River flowing through and two reservoirs in or near Hamilton County, it’s easy to see why it has so many homes in danger of flooding.
Next: All the makings of a flood zone.
7. St. Augustine
County: St. Johns
Floodplain population increase: 71%
Water, water everywhere, which should stop and make you think. Water surrounds most of St. Augustine as well as St. Johns County, which is just south of Jacksonville. There’s St. Johns River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. We didn’t even mention the Matanzas River just inland from the ocean. The county gained an additional 25,000 floodplain residents in 16 years, according to the Governing data. When you put it all together, it’s easy to see why this coastal area has so many people and homes in danger of flooding.
Next: One disaster points to the potential problem.
6. The Woodlands, Texas
Floodplain population increase: 71.6%
All it takes to see the problem of living in Montgomery County’s flood-prone areas is to look at Hurricane Harvey. The costliest natural disaster of 2017 ripped through Houston and suburban The Woodlands, destroying more than 200,000 homes in the process. Considering Montgomery County added more than 15,300 floodplain residents in 16 years, it’s easy to see why Harvey impacted so many people.
Next: People keep flocking to this area.
5. Round Rock, Texas
Floodplain population increase: 72.5%
Williamson County is just north of Austin, Texas’ state capital, so it offers urban amenities with a suburban feel. Round Rock is one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities, and those people have to live somewhere. As it turns out, they might live in flood-prone areas. The county added close to 7,700 people who live in flood areas between 2000 and 2016.
Next: We’re back in an area we visited before.
4. Denton, Texas
Floodplain population increase: 86.2%
The city and county of Denton are just west of Plano and Collin County, an area we visited a few minutes ago. The same issues affecting its neighbor to the east happen here. The Trinity River and three large lakes within the county’s borders — Lake Ray Roberts, Lewisville Lake, and Grapevine Lake — combined with rapid development lead to more homes in danger of flooding.
Next: Nearly doubling the number.
3. Kissimmee, Florida
Floodplain population increase: 90.7%
The Kissimmee area is one of the deadliest American cities for pedestrians, and as it turns out, it’s dangerous if you’re just sitting at home, too. Osceola County nearly doubled its floodplain population in just 16 years, going from 31,500 in 2000 to 60,120 in 2016. Whether you judge by percentage increase or the sheer number of people, the county has tons of homes in danger of flooding.
Next: Our final two stops are far and away leading the race.
2. San Marcos, Texas
Floodplain population increase: 112.2%
We visited Round Rock, Texas, which is just north of capital city Austin, a minute ago. Now we’re looking to the south of the city. San Marcos and its neighbors in Hays County more than doubled its floodplain population, per the Governing data. It had an estimated 6,000 residents living in homes in danger of flooding in 2000. But 2016, it was closer to 13,000 living in flood-prone areas.
Next: No. 1, and it’s not even close.
1. Sugar Land, Texas
County: Fort Bend
Floodplain population increase: 138.1%
As we said earlier, you might be shocked seeing Texas — not Florida, Louisiana, or California — as the state with the most cities that have homes in danger of flooding. However, The Lone Star State is the worst one in America for natural disasters, with dozens of billion-dollar storms since 1980. Yet people don’t seem to mind the risk. Sugar Land and the rest of Fort Bend County, which sits just southwest of Houston, had fewer than 20,000 floodplain residents in 2000. Sixteen years later, Governing estimated it had more than 46,000, good for a 138% increase.
All city population figures are courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau.
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