Rising sea levels – a consequence of climate change – are expected to increase the chance of hospital flooding by 22 percent this century, scientists said, publishing their findings in GeoHealth on Thursday.
The study warns that even relatively weak systems can pose serious flooding risks to hospitals along the country’s coast.
“As a result of climate change, hurricanes are projected to become more severe and likely to hit regions farther north than in the past,” said senior author Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Aaron Bernstein), said in a statement.
“In a place like my hometown of Boston, we can avoid the crisis that other hospitals have had to endure by learning from other hospitals’ experiences and developing plans based on best practices,” Bernstein added. “But we must act now, before disaster strikes.”
Bernstein and his colleagues identified 682 acute care hospitals in 78 metropolitan areas within 10 miles of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. According to the study, these areas have a population of less than 85 million, or about a quarter of the U.S. population.
Across 78 metropolitan areas, the researchers found that half or more of hospitals in 25 were at risk of flooding from Category 2 storms.
Researchers identified 10 metro areas where Category 2 hurricanes would most jeopardize hospital care:
- Miami, FL – Fort Lauderdale – West Palm Beach
- New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-Pa.
- Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL
- New Orleans – Metairie, Los Angeles
- Tampa – St.St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
- Bradenton Harbor, North Sarasota, Florida
- Jacksonville, FL
- Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Florida
- Philadelphia, PA – Camden – Wilmington – NJ – Del – Maryland.
As sea levels rise this century, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Corpus Christi, Texas; Philadelphia and Boston metro areas at risk of flooding from Category 2 storms, according to this study Possibly a 90% increase.
“The recent storm has destroyed hospital infrastructure,” the authors warned in a statement.
“Even though hospital buildings may not be flooded, roads around them may limit or prevent access to care,” they said.
In the 18 metro areas they surveyed, the researchers found that at least half of the roads within a mile of a hospital were at risk of flooding from a Category 2 storm.
The authors add that this situation presents significant challenges for patient transfer during a hurricane and for patients and staff to enter hospitals after the storm subsides.