A major flood in the Los Angeles Basin would cause much more severe damage than current official estimates forecast and disproportionately harm low-lying Black and low-income communities, a study published Monday in Nature Sustainability finds. A so-called 100-year flood — an event with a 1% chance of occurring in any given year — would quickly overwhelm the region's waterways and 70-year-old drainage network, but the region's long history of racist housing policies are mainly to blame for a potential flood's disparate harms. Black, Latino, and Asian residents were 79%, 17%, and 11% more likely than white residents to be exposed to waist-high flooding, respectively. Climate change, caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels -– along with urban sprawl — is increasing flooding risks, making droughts worse and more frequent, and amplifying extreme weather whiplash. The study is one of the first that takes a more in-depth assessment of the city’s infrastructure capabilities, and examines the ways climate change-fueled extreme weather whiplash would impact the region. In the worst-case scenario, whole communities currently outside federal flood zones, — meaning homes there are unlikely to be insured against flood damage — could be six feet underwater.
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