States at Risk: Which US States Are Least Prepared for Potential Flooding

According to a new report, Florida, Texas and Mississippi are among the US states poorest prepared for  coastal flooding risk posed by a changing climate. Florida, Illinois, Tennessee and Ohio are some of the states poorest prepared for risk of inland flooding.

States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card

Across the USA, extreme heat, drought, wildfire and flooding pose a significant and increasing risk to people and the economy. But how well prepared is your state to deal with such potential disasters and long-term climate changes?

States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card, offers some answers. In the form of a report card, the States at Risk summarizes the changing nature of key threats and the corresponding levels of preparedness in each of the 50 states. It has been developed by Climate Central, the climate science news organization, along with partners ICF International.

The report grades each state’s preparedness on five key threats posed by a changing climate: drought, extreme heat, wildfires, inland flooding and coastal flooding. The developers say it is the first-ever quantitative assessment that summarizes the changing nature of key threats, including extreme heat, drought, wildfires, inland flooding, and coastal flooding.

“Taking action now will pay dividends as we look to the future” – States at Risk.

Its goal is to help states improve their level of preparedness by recognizing risks from the climate-related threats they face in the future, building an action plan, and implementing this plan.


State actions were evaluated in five sectors critical to modern society: Transportation, Energy, Water, Health, and Communities, as well as states as a whole. The report does not take into consideration well-prepared individual cities or regions within the poorly performing states, nor private initiatives.

Grades were given from A for the best, all the way down to F for the worst prepared in the face each of the 5 climate threats.

Patchwork of Preparedness

The developers say that the report reveals the nation’s patchwork of preparedness, and how the readiness responses for each state are very different.

For example, Florida, Texas and California are the states facing the greatest climate threats. California earned an A and leads the nation in overall preparedness, with the highest preparedness scores in all five threat categories. Texas is one of the worst prepared and received an F overall, and Florida earned a C- overall. See the overall report card here.

Inland Flooding

Florida and California have the largest vulnerable populations at risk with 1.5 and 1.3 million people living in the inland FEMA 100-year floodplain respectively. Georgia is third most at risk with 570,000 people. More than half of all states assessed (17 out of 32) have taken no action to plan for future climate change related inland flooding risks or implemented strategies to address them.

The report says that changing rain and snowfall patterns, combined with other environmental and socio-economic factors could alter inland flooding risk in many states. These floods put people at risk and can damage buildings and infrastructure, especially those in low-lying areas.

The analysis assesses each state’s threat from inland flooding based on the severity of high runoff events and the number of people living in areas at risk of a 100-year flood (which has a 1 percent chance of occurring every year).

The efforts of a total of 11 states were considered poor enough to receive a D+ or worse for their preparedness for future inland flooding risks. Oddly, the state of Texas wasn’t assessed for inland flooding dangers, despite being one of the hardest hit by floods in recent years.

F Grades:
South Dakota

D Grades:
Illinois D-
Florida D-
Tennessee D
Oklahoma D
Ohio D
West Virginia D+
Kansas D+

Coastal Flooding

Florida and Louisiana face enormous coastal flooding risks, far greater than any of the other 22 coastal states. Florida alone has 4.6 million people projected at risk (living in the100-year coastal floodplain) by 2050. Louisiana has 1.2 million.

The report says that overall, states are more prepared for coastal flooding than for any other threat. Florida, however, earned a lowly “F grade” for coastal flood preparedness, due to its average level of readiness in the face of enormous current and future risks. Louisiana, which is far better prepared, earned a B-.

As for Texas, the report says that, compared to other coastal states, Texas faces an average coastal flooding threat. Although the state has several programs in place that address its current flooding risks, it has not parlayed that into plans that address its projected larger future risks.

9 states got D+ or worse for coastal flooding, although this included Hawaii* which was measured using different methodology.

In the face of coastal flooding, the worst prepared states are:

F Grades:

D Grades:
New Jersey D-
Hawaii * D-
South Carolina D
New Hampshire D
Texas D+
Georgia D+

About the States at Risk Report

The States at Risk report was done by collaboration between Climate Central and ICF International. Climate Central is an independent, non-profit organization of scientists and journalists researching and reporting about our changing climate and its impact on the American public. This analysis and report was funded by the ZOOM Foundation, a family foundation which has a focus on education and the environment. The ZOOM Foundation focuses its philanthropic investments on innovative change efforts that have the high potential for sustainable, scalable impact, especially in the areas of education and the environment.

More about the methodology can be found here.