The National Flood Insurance Program paid out more than $1 Billion in claims in 2020 for the record sixth year in a row, continuing trends for higher average claims and increased flooding in “low risk” areas, an E&E analysis of NFIP data found. Just eight counties (and parishes) in Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana, accounted for more than half of the $1.2 billion in total claims — arising from the record-breaking 2020 hurricane season. More than one-third of the claims were caused by Hurricane Sally, which “sucker-punched” Southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle last September.

Climate change is elevating flood risk in the U.S. by increasing the frequency of extreme precipitation and intensifying hurricane rainfall while sea levels raised by climate change exacerbate flooding risks. Science also indicates climate change is causing hurricanes, like Sally, to slow down, allowing the storms to dump more rain as the storms hover over affected areas for longer periods of time. The 2020 claims continue a trend of increased flooding in areas supposedly unlikely to flood, with over one-third of 2020 claims occurring outside the so-called 100-year flood zone, which reflects the failure of the NFIP to account for climate change in its flood modeling.

The NFIP, which is administered by FEMA, is supposed to be self-sustaining, but payouts have outstripped premiums such that it owes $20.5 billion in unpaid claims. (E&E $; Climate Signals background: Flooding, Hurricanes, 2020 Atlantic hurricane season)