Atlantic City will be almost entirely uninhabitable by the end of the century due to rising sea levels and is one of the top American cities at risk of being underwater in 60 years, according to Delaware-based firm 24/7 Wall Street.
On Tuesday, the company released a national list of 35 U.S. cities with the greatest percentage of homes at risk of chronic flooding by 2060 and 2100, based on data compiled by the science advocacy nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists.
Atlantic City is third on the list, behind only Hoboken, Hudson County, and Miami Beach, Florida.
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“Most of the cities are directly on the coast and sit below sea level,” said Doug McIntyre, 24/7 Wall Street CEO.
According to the UCS, 13,687 Atlantic City residents will be living in homes “at risk” of flooding in 2060. It will jump to 21,373 people in 2100, the group found. The nonprofit defines homes “at risk of flooding” as those that will see 26 flood events or more per year.
The nonprofit’s analysis found about 50% of Atlantic City’s habitable land will be underwater in 40 years, and nearly 93% will be underwater by the end of the century.
The rankings are drawn from UCS calculations last year on how many homes will be affected by rising sea levels in U.S. coastal towns, and what percentage of land in each city will be underwater. It assumed a three-foot increase in sea-level rise by 2060 and a 6.5-foot increase by 2100.
The data do not, in some cases, take into account the effects of recent flood-mitigation projects, such as seawalls and locally controlled levees.
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Atlantic City, like other coastal communities, has taken steps to combat flooding, including the completion of a $40 million seawall and Boardwalk project last year and the Baltic Avenue Canal pumping station.
Other Jersey Shore towns, like Margate, Ventnor, Ocean City and Brigantine, also appeared in the top 35 municipalities to be hit hardest by flooding.
Almost 90% of Ocean City’s population is projected to be living in homes “at risk” of flooding in 2100, with 98% of habitable land inundated, the UCS found. It ranked in the top 15 on 24/7 Wall Street’s list.
Kristina Dahl, UCS senior climate scientist, said the research shows it’s not just homeowners who will be affected by sea-level rise at the Jersey Shore. The region’s entire economy could be upended by chronic inundation, she said.
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In the Garden State, the number of commercial properties expected to experience chronic flooding in 2100 is more than 11,000, assessed at a total of more than $11 billion, according to the UCS. A vast majority are hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other parts of the seasonal economy.
Many live inland but work within the shore’s tourism industry, and frequently flooded roads and buildings could unexpectedly shut down those businesses periodically.
“(The Jersey Shore) is so tourism-based ... it could become less viable,” Dahl said. “You have a lot of people living there, but also working there. Their home might not be affected, but their job could be.”
Some New Jersey communities facing chronic flooding in the coming decades are home to people with fewer resources to deal with the problem, she said.
West Cape May, for instance, has a high elderly population rate. Others, such as Atlantic City, have large chunks of the population living below the national poverty line.
“We know low-income communities, communities of color and older communities have a harder time bouncing back from flood events,” Dahl said.