We’re not immune to the increasing effects of global warming here in Florida. Rising sea levels are impacting our state in many areas- flood insurance, property insurance, mortgages, property values, beach health and more. When thinking about purchasing a home in Florida, especially with a 30-year mortgage, the problem of flooding is crucial to keep in mind. Flooding can occur even when there is little or no rain. Even small changes in sea level can cause major storm surges from hurricanes. Most importantly, this is not a future problem. It is happening now and leaders are struggling to find solutions.
Why are the sea levels rising in Florida?
According to sealevelrise.org, the two main contributors to rising sea levels are melting ice at the North and South poles and the subsequent slowing of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream currents normally pull water away from our shores and circulate it around the globe. The melting ice is leaking fresh water into the salt water–slowing this process and leaving too much water behind.
Seawater gets pushed into drainage pipes that are meant to take water away. This can flood the streets, even on dry days. Flooded streets make commuting difficult and contribute to traffic accidents. They put cars and homes at risk and prevent access to infrastructure. At these high levels, salt water can also mix with drinking water, making well water unsafe to use.
Florida knows to prepare for hurricanes.
Hurricanes can cause flooding as well, and they are something we always have to prepare for in Florida. Unfortunately, just a few more inches of sea level rise allow a hurricane to push more water onto the land, even if the hurricane itself doesn’t make landfall. More intense hurricanes and stronger storm surges are happening much more frequently and are expected to continue. Massive events that occurred every hundred years are now every ten years or so. By the time you pay off your thirty-year mortgage, you will have experienced several catastrophic events.
Flood mitigation in Florida differs and other coastal states.
In a typical coastal city, a man made sea wall in addition to natural bedrock can prevent sea water from flooding inland. In Florida, however, the bedrock is beneath a porous limestone and acts like a hard sponge full of openings. The porosity allows groundwater to rise at the same rate as the ocean. This can make flood mitigation efforts challenging, as some traditional methods won’t work in Florida. Water can flow through the porous ground, up from below, and under sea walls.
Before you buy a home, get professional advice. Is there a flood history for the home? Is it in an officially defined flood zone as determined by FEMA? Your home inspector will be able to offer advice and potentially uncover any past damage that would indicate a flood history. Even if the home is in a flood zone, your home inspector, realtor and an insurance agent can help understand the risk and mitigate future losses.
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Rachelle is an author, blogger, content crafter and a savvy consume