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Report: Rising seas to bring historic floods on Carolinas coast; billions in property at stake

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CHARLESTON, S.C. - A new analysis of sea level rise concludes that billions of dollars in property and infrastructure is at risk in extreme floods expected along the coast of the Carolinas in coming years.

Climate Central of Princeton, New Jersey, a non-profit group of scientists and journalists that surveys and conducts climate change studies, released an analysis of the threat faced in South Carolina on Monday while its report for North Carolina was released last week. An analysis for Georgia is due next week.

The information is available on an interactive map on the organization's website http://bit.ly/1rjkMsv where visitors can enter their zip code and see various flooding scenarios.

The analysis found that the South Carolina coast is likely to see extreme floods of more than 4 feet above high tide within 40 years in a danger zone that includes 54,000 homes and $24 billion in property. North Carolina has $9 billion in property and 61,000 homes less than 4 feet above the high tide line, most of it in the Wilmington area.

Ben Strauss, the lead author of the reports, said the organization two years ago used maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to analyze population and housing threatened by flooding in all coastal states.

The new maps being released now are of higher quality and include 100 additional parameters such as property values, infrastructure, schools, churches, power plants and the like that could be inundated in floods.

Frank Knapp, the president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce said the reports show coastal communities need to "begin to develop strategies to make their communities more resilient to different sea level rise scenarios."

Meanwhile, a North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission science panel was to meet in New Bern on Monday to again assess the degree of sea level rise along state's coast during the coming decades.

Four years ago, panel warned of 39-inch rise by 2100. That alarmed some developers and state lawmakers and the legislature required a new forecast be developed and released in 2016.

Some findings from the Climate Central analysis:

— While historically sea level rise has been 1.2 inches a decade on the South Carolina coast it now is expected to rise 12 inches by 2050. In North Carolina, the sea has historically risen .8 inches a decade but by 2050 is expected to rise 11 inches.

— North Carolina has 2,500 miles of road, 15 schools, 108 houses of worship and 131 waste sites and sewage plants less than 4 feet above the high tide line. South Carolina has 1,200 miles of road, 13 schools, 33 houses of worship and 76 waste sites and sewage plants less than 4 feet above the high tide line.

— South Carolina has $60 billion in property and 174,000 homes less than 9 feet above the high tide line while North Carolina has $21 billion in property and 133,000 homes less than 8 feet above the high tide line.

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