North Carolina’s in the climate change crosshairs

North Carolina’s in the climate change crosshairs
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Eastern North Carolina has been a regular target for worsening extreme weather events.

  • But closer to home here, Charlotte’s now a national leader in mitigating risk.
NC Severe weather map

Data: FEMA; Map: Axios Visuals

The big picture: The map above shows major disasters declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency over the past two decades. It includes extreme events from hurricanes to tornado outbreaks.

  • Brunswick County in the southeastern corner of the state endured the most, with more than 15 events.
  • But notice Mecklenburg: We’ve had  less than five.

Why it matters: Some areas are safer from climate-fueled extreme weather events, but no region will go untouched, Axios’ Ben Geman writes as part of this eye-opening deep dive led by our colleagues Andrew Freedman and Kia Kokalitcheva.

  • For some places like Charlotte, the effects could come more from climate migration, as people leave areas that have been pounded for places where the risk is lower.

Between the lines: Last week, FEMA recognized Charlotte as one of the top 1% of cities nationwide for its flood risk management, giving it a Class 3 ratinggiving it a Class 3 rating for encouraging floodplain management practices that exceed the National Flood Insurance Program.

  • The new grade from FEMA means Charlotte properties are eligible for a 35% discount on flood insurance, as of Oct. 1.

The big picture: Since 1999, our local Storm Water Services division has purchased hundreds of flood-prone houses to move people out of floodplains.

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  • While other efforts may yield mixed results, Bloomberg News wrote in this 2018 article that “tearing down homes is foolproof: A house that no longer exists is a house that can never flood again.”

Things have been more difficult in places not far from here.

Take the town of Fair Bluff in Columbus County, about 2.5 hours east of Charlotte. After being flooded out twice in hurricanes Matthew and Florence, nearly half of Fair Bluff’s residents left and didn’t come back, as I wrote in this 2019 story for the Guardian.

  • Population loss has wiped out property tax income and caused deep cuts to services and government.
  • The collapse of towns and cities like Fair Bluff “threatens to disrupt neighboring towns and cities as the new arrivals push up demand for housing,” the New York Times wrote last month.
  • Guess what issue tops Mecklenburg residents’ list of community concerns? Affordable housing.

My thought bubble: My mother lives in Brunswick County. My forthcoming book is set almost entirely in Bladen and Columbus counties.

  • Point being, eastern North Carolina is one of my favorite places in the world. But folks there are tired, and those who move away often come to places like Charlotte on a one-way ticket.

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