The map was an eye-opener.
Chad Berginnis, speaking Wednesday at the Upper Mississippi River Conference in Moline, projected a map of a storm-damaged city on an overhead screen, pointing out areas located in the flood plain and areas where people had reported damage in a recent storm.
They were not the same.
The increasing incidence of flooding in urban areas where there never has been flooding before is caused by an increasing number of high-intensity rainfalls that will continue, Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, said.
After Hurricane Harvey in Texas in 2017, for example, 46 percent of damage reports were outside of the 500-year flood plain, Gerry Galloway, of the University of Maryland, said.
Berginnis and Galloway were the keynote speakers addressing a crowd of about 175 people at the conference sponsored by River Action Inc., Davenport. The theme of the 11th annual event that continues Thursday is "Working together for healthy waters and flood-resilient communities."
Dealing with urban flooding is a new challenge of this century, said Galloway, who authored the study, "What did we and the world learn from the Great Flood of 1993?"
"They're the ones that sneak up and bite you.
"The future will be different than the past," he said. Increasing population and development, crumbling infrastructure and climate change will combine to create conditions we have not seen before, he said.
Here are six take-away points from their presentations:
• Individual homeowners who do not live in a recognized flood plain should consider buying private sector flood insurance.
Conference attendee Olivia Dorothy, speaking in a question-and-answer session, said that because she is aware of the dangers of flooding, she sought insurance when she and her husband bought a new house in Moline. But she was told by her agent that she couldn't get it because she doesn't live in a floodplain.
Berginnis responded that more education is needed and that "some (insurance) agents aren't understanding the issues."
• The United States does not have a coordinated effort in fighting floods; various agencies such as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers handle different aspects, for example, and they don't always talk to each other, Berginnis said.
With this in mind, cities and states should develop flood reduction plans for their individual areas, he said.
• There is no single solution for how to deal with flooding, Gallaway said. Efforts should take a multi-pronged approach that includes not building in the flood plain; buying out homes and business that already are in the flood plain; developing ways through retention ponds or the building of wetlands to retain water where it falls; and using levees and dikes as a last resort.
• At some point in the next two decades, Freddie Mac may stop buying mortgages of homes in flood plains, Berginnis said. Freddie Mac is the government-sponsored enterprise that buys mortgages on the secondary market, pools them, and sells them to investors as a way to increase the supply of money available for mortgage lending.
"Lenders will stop lending and buyers will stop buying." And that will lead to an economic recession worse than what occurred in 2008, he said.
• The "sea level rise crisis will affect the nation," Berginnis said. As an example of how climate change already is causing ocean levels to rise, he showed a slide of a parking garage in the Miami area with water on the floor caused by tidal flooding.
• The United States must invest in the operation and maintenance in existing infrastructure such as levees and dams, both men said.