Florida Keys News
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Company promises flood info at fingertips

FLORIDA KEYS — Potential buyers who want a dream house in paradise but who don’t want to later discover a pesky flooding problem may have a solution in a product provided by Coastal Risk Consulting.

Coastal Risk offers an online product where a potential homeowner can type in an address, pay a $99 fee and get a 30-year forecast that the company says details to 1 square meter where and how often that property will be underwater.

Cofounder Albert Slap pictures his product as a part of doing due diligence for a property in a coastal area before one buys it, similar to how a prospective buyer would inspect for termites or mold.

Flood prediction may be of interest for buyers in Monroe County. Nuisance flooding has plagued the Upper Keys in particular since the king tide and blood moon at the end of September, leaving parts of Key Largo under 15 inches of saltwater for days at a time.

Due to sea level rise, nuisance flooding in the Florida Keys is a problem that will only get worse, according to county officials.

Slap, an environmental lawyer for 40 years, and cofounder Leonard Berry, the former director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, saw an opportunity and a chance to help.

“We were retired,” Slap said. “He [Berry] contacted me and said let’s think about setting up a consultancy that would help counties get climate-ready and storm-safe. I thought, ‘That’s good.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my shingle.”

Slap provided the funding for the one-year-old Fort Lauderdale-based company and brought in a software-design firm from Minneapolis.

“We automated the geospatial modeling that predicts flooding from tides and sea level rise and storm surge in ‘the cloud,’” he said. “It operates at one-second return time.”

Slap says this information is provided in an easy-to-understand way at an affordable price, as opposed to hiring an engineer to conduct this research or trying to wade through governmental websites by yourself.

And while it may be easy to understand why a potential homebuyer would want a flood forecast for a property — the forecast may deter them from buying land that will be submerged by the end of their 30-year mortgage — does it have an application for current homeowners in a flood zone?

Slap says that since the flood prediction is accurate to a square meter, this information may be useful to know when making a decision about where to place an air-conditioning unit or where to park a car.

In addition, “they can use this information to have a dialogue with local officials: ‘How are you using our tax dollars to design measures to dry this place out to not have these situations?’” he said, alluding to the flooded Key Largo residents.

The Free Press asked Rhonda Haag, sustainability director for Monroe County, whether an online product like Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment would be useful. Haag has been researching the county’s vulnerability to sea level rise and nuisance flooding, and has heard many homeowners complain about flooding.

“Information can be helpful for all property owners, and they should do their due diligence,” she said. “And while I can’t comment on a particular vendor, what certain vendors are doing is they’re consolidating publicly available free data in a summary fashion.

“If people are interested, they’re free to use these tools, but they can also get information such as flood insurance rate maps online or through a Realtor and wind risk data through an insurance agent or FEMA.”

Also, The Nature Conservancy has created the free online Coastal Resilience Tool to predict sea level rise impacts on communities.

Kathy Snow, a resident of Key Largo’s Twin Lakes, experienced considerable flooding in her neighborhood in October and was dealing with it again Friday after a few rainy days.

She said a product like Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment would have little interest to her now.

“I’d be interested in when the county is going to raise our roads,” she said. “Knowing when it’s going to flood is not going to help me. But I would have been interested in it before I bought the house, back then. Had I known it was going to flood like this, I wouldn’t have bought it.”

For more information on Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment, go to coastalriskrapidassessment.com. Readers can have a 10 percent discount on the flood score for their homes by using the code “CRC123.” 


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