These Are the 10 States Most at Risk for Flooding.
Are They Red or Blue?
What would happen if a flood struck a swing state on Election Day?
With the U.S. presidential election just around the corner, an abnormally active hurricane season looms, one that experts predict will intensify into October and November. A massive storm or flood is a highly destructive event any other time of the year, especially during an ongoing pandemic, but an event that intersects with election season could have a substantial impact on voter turnout.
Even while millions of Americans plan to vote by mail or early this year to avoid virus exposure, hurricanes and other flooding events could damage vital civic operations like polling places and postal delivery and prevent people from travelling to get out the vote. That kind of disruption could influence not only the presidential election but the local, judicial, and state races down the ballot.
Based on an analysis of FEMA data conducted by Stacker, we’ve rounded up the 10 states that are most at risk for flooding – the states with the highest percentage state in Special Flood Hazard Areas. Here’s how those states lean, according to 270toWin, and what the latest presidential general election polling data from FiveThirtyEight reveals.
10: North Carolina: A Key Swing State with a Storm-Battered Coast
North Carolina has been battered by several large hurricanes over the past few years, from Hurricane Florence in 2018 to Hurricane Matthew just two years prior. Those two storms made landfall in September, but 1954’s Hurricane Hazel, the only Category 4 storm to ever hit the Carolinas coast, arrived in mid-October.
North Carolina is a perennial swing state, meaning it regularly sees close numbers in presidential races. In the 2020 election, NC will be a battleground state – President Trump won by only a slim margin in 2016, and the state’s recent polling numbers indicate another tight race.
9: District Columbia: The Blue Capital Plagued by Flash Floods
The U.S. capital sits in one of the more flood-prone areas in the country, the mid-Atlantic region. Washington, D.C. gets a lot of torrential rains and flash flooding events throughout the flood season of spring and summer. While only 12 square miles are FEMA flood zones, that makes up roughly 17 percent of its total land.
The District of Columbia isn’t represented in the Senate, but its residents are responsible for three electoral votes, and they consistently vote blue.
8: Delaware: A Small State Overlooking a Rising Sea
Delaware is susceptible to coastal storms, rising seas, and flash flooding events along Delaware Bay.
Delaware also has only three electoral college votes, as it’s one of the least populous states. It has voted democratic in the last seven presidential elections.
7: Maryland: A Blue State with Abundant Waterways
Like D.C. and Delaware, Maryland’s flood risk mostly centers around flash floods and coastal storms, the latter of which can swell tides in the state’s many bays and tributaries and flood the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers.
Also like D.C. and Delaware, Maryland is a blue state and has voted Democratic in every election except that of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush.
6: South Carolina: Like North Carolina, but Red
South Carolina shares North Carolina’s history of hurricane damage and was similarly hard hit by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence in recent years. The Carolinas remain on high watch for the remainder of the 2020 hurricane season.
In contrast to its northern swing neighbor, however, South Carolina is firmly red, and the Republican presidential candidate typically wins South Carolinans’ votes by wide margins.
5: New Jersey: A Dense Blue State Vulnerable to Atlantic Storms
All of New Jersey is close or directly on the Atlantic, which puts the state at a risk for coastal storms and rising seas, including in areas not currently designated as FEMA flood zones.
A storm’s disruption has been felt by New Jersey’s polls in the past. Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest hurricanes to pound the East Coast in recent memory, damaged polling sites and disrupted postal delivery across New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut during the 2012 election.
New Jersey is a steady blue state, and with its 14 electoral votes, it has the tenth-highest number out of the 50 states.
4: Arkansas: A Steady Red State with Overflowing Waterways
Arkansas’ flood risk stems from heavy rainfall events that can cause overflow in one of its rivers, basins, or tributaries. Arkansas saw serious flooding as a result of the 2019 Midwestern floods.
Arkansas is a red state, with Republican margins of victory increasing steadily over the past several presidential elections.
3: Mississippi: A Red State Named After the Flood-Prone River It Borders
Mississippi’s geography makes its flood risks similar to its neighbor Arkansas, with the added threat of its stretch of southern shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico.
Also like Arkansas, Mississippi routinely votes red.
2: Florida: A Battleground State with the Longest Coastline in the U.S.
Florida is a particularly volatile state when it comes to both flooding and elections.
The Sunshine State has traditionally been a major battleground state in presidential elections. With the third-highest number of electoral votes, Florida’s 29 votes can make or break a presidential election. And clinching the state in a presidential election often happens by a hair – Trump won by just a little over one percent in 2016, and Barack Obama won by less than one percent in 2012.
1: Louisiana: A Red State Defined by Its History of Flooding
The state with the highest percentage of land at risk of flooding, Louisiana was the site of one of the most devastating storms in American history, Hurricane Katrina. The 2005 disaster brought lasting infrastructure damage to the city of New Orleans, as well as a documented impact on voter turnout in the 2006 mayoral election.
But it’s not just Gulf Coast hurricanes that constitute Louisiana’s major flood risk: the Mississippi River runs through the state, too, and floods often.
Katrina displaced thousands, and Louisiana lost one electoral vote in the wake of permanent migration. Louisiana remains a consistent red state.
Anywhere It Can Rain, It Can Flood, No Matter If It’s Red or Blue
From COVID-19 vaccine production to home damage to the presidential election, floods disrupt just about every layer of society. As FEMA reminds us, “anywhere it can rain, it can flood,” which means millions of Americans all across the country remain at risk for flooding into the fall as the election approaches.