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Flood risk to Cincinnati’s critical infrastructure double national average, new study says

goose sits in high water from the Ohio River in Smale Riverfront Park in Downtown Cincinnati on...
goose sits in high water from the Ohio River in Smale Riverfront Park in Downtown Cincinnati on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. According to the National Weather Service the Ohio River was at 54.73 feet on Wednesday morning and is expected to crest at 56 feet by Thursday. Albert Cesare / The Enquirer(Cincinnati Enquirer/Albert Cesare)
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 4:01 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (Cincinnati Enquirer) - Police stations. Water treatment plants and other utilities. Hospitals.

These are the things that help us lead the lives we want. This is the infrastructure that keeps us connected, in Cincinnati and all across America.

In many ways, these are the things that keep us safe.

But here in Greater Cincinnati, the risk of flooding to that critical infrastructure is much higher than in most of the country, according to an Enquirer analysis of new research from a nonprofit organization studying climate change.

Scroll to the bottom of the story to see details on the risks in 135 local ZIP codes.

The risk of infrastructure flooding here is nearly double the median national average, according to an Enquirer analysis of the data. Locally, almost 129,000 properties are currently at risk. That number is expected to increase by thousands over the next few decades.

Kentucky, as a state, is even more susceptible. It is one of the four most at-risk states for floods, along with Florida, Louisiana and West Virginia.

“Our nation’s infrastructure is not built to a standard that protects against the level of flood risk we face today, let alone how those risks will grow over the next 30 years as the climate changes,” said Matthew Eby, executive director of

First Street Foundation.

The study’s release comes as the Federal Emergency Management Agency begins to incorporate climate risk into the cost of flood insurance, dramatically increasing the price for some new home buyers.

Next April, most current policyholders will see their premiums go up and continue to rise for the next 20 years, according to the Washington Post.

Other findings

  • In Clermont County along the Ohio River, New Richmond had the highest percentage of critical infrastructure risk in southwest Ohio. (Literally, all of the village’s infrastructure is at risk.)
  • More than half of the roads in Dayton, Kentucky, are at risk of flooding, making it the most at-risk community by proportion in the state.
  • About 40,000 local residential properties are at risk of flooding.
  • About 20,000 miles of roads in Greater Cincinnati are at risk of flooding. That’s actually slightly less than the national median. Nationally, nearly 2 million miles of road are at risk.
  • To read the complete study, visit firststreet.org.

Enquirer investigations and enterprise editor Mark Wert contributed.

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