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Floods Can Put Some NY Schools at Risk

Flash floods can occur with little warning, putting students, teachers and the surrounding community at risk. (David Fine/FEMA)
Flash floods can occur with little warning, putting students, teachers and the surrounding community at risk. (David Fine/FEMA)
August 3, 2017

NEW YORK – Public schools in every state, including New York, are at risk of damage from floods, according to a new report.

The Pew Charitable Trusts did a county-by-county assessment of the flood risk at public schools in all 50 states.

Floods don't just affect communities such as New York City that are near coastlines. Flash floods can occur inland, often with little or no warning, putting students, teachers and the surrounding community at risk.

Laura Lightbody, director of Pew’s Flood Prepared Communities Project, says in New York, five counties – Westchester, Sullivan, Delaware, Ulster and Nassau, totaling 39 schools and more than 20,000 students – have the highest risk of school flooding.

"When schools are impacted by flooding, it means a lot more than just a day off of school,” she points out. “It can impact families, disrupt child care, and sometimes put that emergency center for communities out."

The report includes recommendations for policymakers to help reduce the risks to their schools.

Lightbody says communities can take several steps to help keep their schools safe.

"Such as redirecting water, elevating utilities from basement areas, to larger investments such as improved storm-water management or drainage," she points out.

The report notes that the federal and state governments often will assist local communities in projects to improve flood protection.

Lightbody says that's an investment that pays off.

"It's textbook math,” she states. “Every $1 invested in mitigation saves $4 in recovery costs. So let's make those smart investments now, and protect our kids from future risk."

Nationally, more than 5,000 schools are located in ZIP codes where half or more of the area is designated a high-risk flood zone.


Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY