Surrounded by streams, rivers, and gently rolling hills, Charlotte, NC is prone to flooding. In fact, flooding following heavy rains, tropical storms, and hurricanes is the most frequent and costly type of natural disaster it faces (2). In the 1980’s and 1990’s, three major flood events cost the region over $1 billion (2). With a population of over 800,000 residents and more than 5,000 properties located in Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s floodplains, the increasing risk of flooding due to climate change is cause for concern.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Storm Water Services Program is working with government agencies and county residents to “Build a Flood-Resilient Future”. The hazard mitigation plan includes regulatory guidance, community outreach and financial assistance to help minimize losses associated with future flooding events. Highlights of their planning efforts include:
- Updating floodplain development ordinances so new construction and/or renovation projects are less likely to flood in the future.
- Creating an early warning system (FINS) that helps emergency responders quickly assess flood conditions from a network of stream and flood gauges, set up barricades to protect structures from rising floodwaters, and evacuate residents if needed.
- Providing community outreach about flood risk and insurance needs via the 3-D interactive Floodzone Mapper. This GIS-based mapping tool helps residents and prospective home buyers identify current risks such as location in floodplain, site elevation, flood insurance availability, and restrictions on building; assess future flood risk; and suggests ways to reduce flood damage by purchasing flood insurance, installing early warning systems, or flood-proofing foundations. An investment of $250 million in updating flood maps
- Providing financial assistance through a voluntary buyout of homes in high risk areas, or through RETROfit grants to help homeowners flood-proof homes that fall within current or future floodplain boundaries. The buyout program has purchased 400 homes and relocated 600 families out of flood-prone areas.