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Urban Flooding Is Worryingly Widespread in the U.S., But Under-Studied

When flooding occurs in a small town or just part of a city, it doesn’t register like a big disaster does, according to the first-ever nationwide assessment.
A person walks down a flooded street in Hoboken, New Jersey.
A person walks down a flooded street in Hoboken, New Jersey.Gary Hershorn/Reuters

When a major city like Houston or Detroit floods, the nation pays attention. The president may declare a state of emergency, and agencies at all levels of the government begin recovery efforts while monitoring the event. When flooding happens in a small town or only a small part of a city, though, the event may not be closely examined for its economic and social damages.

That dearth of data is why researchers behind the the first-ever nationwide assessment of urban flooding call the issue the country’s “hidden challenge.”