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Flood Resilience

April 5, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Tomy Granzier-Nakajima and Zack Miller

Executive Summary 

The presence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in Missouri creates significant flooding risks for the state. Floods are dangerous and economically costly, and the frequency of major flooding events in Missouri has increased. The National Centers for Environmental Information lists only one flooding event that affected Missouri in each of the 1990s and 2000s that cost over $1 billion, but five in the 2010s. Projections suggest that Mississippi River flooding alone will cost $4.2 billion annually by 2030. There are several efforts to address flood resiliency in Missouri. Governor Parson created the Flood Resilience Advisory Working Group after the 2019 floods to assess flood risk and identify priority areas for funding. He also proposed the formation of the Missouri Hydrology Information Center in his recommended budget for 2023. In 2022, the University of Missouri announced the creation of the Missouri Water Center, a research hub whose stated goals include improving protection from floods. 

Highlights 

  • Flooding is the deadliest and among the costliest severe weather hazards in Missouri.
    • The majority of fatalities happen during flash floods and to those in vehicles.
  • Missouri is undergoing an above average wet period and climate projections suggest more frequent extreme precipitation events, which will increase future flood risks.
  • Missouri is home to multiple flood exposure “hotspots”, where socially vulnerable communities are located in regions with high flood exposure.
  • Flood resilience is more effective when it takes a whole watershed approach and is proactive rather than reactive.
  • Nationwide, the total costs due to damage from major flooding events in the 2010s was over $65 billion. 
    • Flooding that affected Missouri in the 2010s amounted to $26.6 billion in total damages.

Limitations 

  • Scientific projections of future scenarios of climate impacts are based on the best available data and are useful tools for future planning, but because they incorporate unknown assumptions about the future, they have greater levels of uncertainty with distance of projection (i.e., it is easier to predict next year than 50 years from now).  
  • Missouri-specific data for quantifying various impacts of flooding was not readily available.
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