Each year the Federal Emergency Management Association, or FEMA, reassesses the floodplains in Scott County to make sure flood maps are up to date.

The goal of the maps is to identify homes that may be affected by future flooding disasters and ensure they have protection in the event of a crisis, as required by federal law.

This year, about 200 Jordan homes were added to the FEMA flood maps, according to City Engineer Mike Waltman.

New data

According to Pam Broviak, FEMA’s Civil Engineer for the state of Minnesota, the number of homes being added isn’t necessarily a direct result of a changing climate — it’s the result of better software that more accurately surveys the topography of a certain chunk of land.

Portions of the floodplain region in and around Jordan are identified by FEMA as special flood hazard areas.

“These are the areas that will be inundated by (a potential) flood event having a 1% chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year,” Broviak said.

Each time flood maps are updated, the hazard area can change due to factors including availability of new or updated technology, methods and data, all of which allow for better predictive modeling and more precise mapping, Broviak said.

In Jordan, Broviak said, the map changes are due in part to improved technology. But they’re also due to knowledge of past flooding events that appear to be getting worse over time.

Ongoing risk

Jordan residents are no stranger to extreme flood events. Images of the heavy flooding in spring 2019 come to mind — though 2020 was mild in comparison to the damage from that event, National Weather Service Meteorologist Craig Schmidt says over the past seven years, flooding has increased in frequency in Jordan and the whole Minnesota River Valley.

In part, this is due to the geographic location of the city and its several bodies of water. Heavy precipitation also contributes.

“Sand Creek is very susceptible to flooding when we have extremely heavy rain episodes,” Schmidt said. “It’s also very susceptible to flooding when we have ice jams. And so I think those, those are the probably the two biggest factors when it comes to flooding in the city of Jordan.”

Schmidt says climate change is to blame for changing patterns that bring more precipitation to the upper Midwest.

“As the atmosphere is warming over time that we’re just able to support heavier rain systems more often,” Schmidt said “The threat is there that we can get much more moisture in the air moving further north, more often. In that way the flooding we see in Jordan is part of the larger scale changes that we’re seeing on the globe.”

In contrast with the overall trends, 2020 has been a dry year for the area, which Schmidt says has led some to lower their concern about spring flooding.

“(The drier soil) is actually going to be helpful in terms of our snow melt flood season. But we’re always going to be susceptible to those big-time heavy rain events, and so we’ll always have to be ready for that,” Schmidt said.

For more information on the updated maps in Jordan, visit bit.ly/2JKrkmB.

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