The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently completed a coastal demographics study of the United States and U.S. territories. As part of this study, FEMA estimated the United States population subject to the 1% annual chance (100 y) coastal flood hazard as mapped by FEMA. This determination followed a three-step process: (1) create a national digital flood hazard database by compiling the best available coastal-proximate, digital flood-hazard-area data using FEMA data sets; (2) develop a systematic method to separate coastal and riverine flood hazard areas and incorporate this boundary into the digital flood hazard database; and (3) combine the year 2000 census data with the digital flood hazard database using a geographic information system. This enabled estimates of the U.S. population subject to the 1% annual chance coastal flood. The analysis was conducted at the census block-group level, with census block-group populations (permanent residents) assumed to be uniformly distributed across each block group. The results demonstrate that approximately 3.0% of the U.S. population lives in areas subject to the 1% annual chance coastal flood hazard. It must be emphasized, however, that these numbers are based on the 1% annual chance (100 y) coastal flood. Historical coastal floods less frequent than the 1% chance annual flood have occurred in the U.S. on numerous occasions. If less-frequent coastal flood events were considered in this study, such as the 0.2% annual chance (500 y) coastal flood or, if seasonal (vacations) population were considered, then a much greater percentage of the U.S. population would be determined as subject to coastal flooding.
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Vol. 26 • No. 2