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Three Reasons Appalachia’s Risk of Deadly Floods Keeps Rising

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An aerial view of houses inundated after flash flooding in Kentucky in July 2022. Credit: CLIMATEWIRE | Severe rainstorms continued to pelt eastern Kentucky early this week, just days after catastrophic floods slammed the region’s mountain communities. More than three dozen people are confirmed dead, with hundreds more missing.

The floods are some of the most extreme in the state’s recorded history. Experts have classified the deluge as a one-in-1,000-year event — or one that only has a 0.1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

Such events are becoming more common across the country as the climate warms. That’s simple physics: A warmer atmosphere is able to hold more water and dump more rain. But central Appalachia — including Kentucky, but also West Virginia and parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania — is particularly vulnerable to this climate change impact.

That’s the result of a unique confluence of factors. Climate change is making rainstorms in Appalachia more severe. The region’s mountainous topography puts communities at higher risk of getting swamped. And in some places, experts say, coal mining has left the landscape scarred and more prone to flash floods.

At the same time, many central Appalachian communities have suffered major economic losses […]

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