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TN Faces Longterm Threat of Inland Flooding

Inland flooding and extreme heat are among the concerns listed in a report which gives the state a "C" when it comes to disaster preparedness. Credit: Jusben/morguefile.com
Inland flooding and extreme heat are among the concerns listed in a report which gives the state a "C" when it comes to disaster preparedness. Credit: Jusben/morguefile.com
November 24, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Inland flooding poses the greatest risk to the Volunteer State in future years and earned the state a "D" for preparedness against the threat in a report titled, "States at Risk: America's Preparedness Report Card" by Climate Central and ICF International.

Joanne Logan is a member of Climate Knoxville and an associate professor at the University of Tennessee. She says the state is vulnerable to inland flooding from extreme rain events because of recent land development.

"If we start having more issues with washouts, you combine that with over exploitation of our resources like over-cutting the forest that will cause less of the water to be absorbed before it finally comes down to the area where it can flood."

Overall when considering factors like drought and extreme heat preparations, the state was given a "C." Logan says that's a better grade she thought the state would earn, in light of historically conservative leadership that doesn't always prioritize climate change.

Report analysts gave the state lower marks because of a lack of climate change adaption plans, dedication of state funds to address the issue, and education of the public on the risks.

Logan says one of the biggest vulnerabilities she sees in Tennessee and in many states is an outdated infrastructure system that isn't prepared for extreme weather events including bridges, roads, and other necessities that could make it difficult for communities to operate in an emergency.

"It just screams out for something on infrastructure and just making more facilities weather-ready. It's hospital preparedness," says Logan. "It's taking down trees that are dead so that when storms come through you're not taking out power lines. It's burying power lines."

Nationwide, extreme weather events are taking their toll. Since the 1980s, the annual number of disasters with damages exceeding $1 billion has nearly tripled.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN