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Water-Related News

Hurricanes Ian and Nicole left devastating flooding in Central Florida. Will it happen again?

Across the region, central Floridians are facing a long recovery from a historic 2022 hurricane season that wielded a one-two punch here. Hurricane Ian, after flattening swaths of southwest Florida, left widespread flooding across the state’s interior, causing nearly $113 billion in damage and 152 deaths. The hurricane ranks as the third-costliest in U.S. history after Katrina in 2005 and Harvey in 2017, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hurricane Nicole followed only a few weeks later, dropping even more rain and inundating areas that Ian had spared. Together the hurricanes are responsible for rainfall amounts not seen here in hundreds of years, if not longer, experts say. In some places it would be months before the waters would recede. The National Flood Insurance Program has paid more than $2.3 billion toward claims associated with Ian and $13.2 million toward those associated with Nicole.

Now as central Floridians begin to rebuild many are wondering whether the unprecedented flooding represents a new normal in a changing world. One preliminary study concluded that human-induced climate change increased Hurricane Ian’s rainfall rates by more than 10 percent, according to researchers at Stony Brook University and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Florida’s flood control was not designed for today’s more damaging hurricanes or the state’s booming population, which has grown by 13 percent during the past decade to 22 million.