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Drowning In Dirt: Fill-And-Build Home Lots Raise Community Flood Risk

 Wednesday, May 11, 2022

 E&E News

The soul of this Florida Panhandle city lives in the Tanyard, a 200-year-old neighborhood so steeped in history that locals give it an extra capital ‘T’ -- as in ‘The Tanyard.’ It has also seen big-T troubles: Jim Crow-era segregation, heavy industrialization, multiple hurricane batterings, and a half-century of disinvestment and blight.

Yet its latest challenge is like none before. The Tanyard is at risk of drowning -- if not by flood then by fill dirt.

The flood risk is tied to global warming. The Tanyard occupies some of the lowest ground in a city that has been hit by nine hurricanes since 1975, most recently Sally in 2020.

Looking forward, rising seas could swell nearby Pensacola Bay by 12 inches in less than 30 years -- meaning a 6-foot storm surge would put the entire Tanyard underwater, according to modeling from ClimateCheck, an analytics firm, for E&E News.

The fill dirt threat is more gradual and arguably more insidious. Its first waves already are being felt as 15-ton dump trucks ply the Tanyard’s streets to deliver loads of fill dirt to freshly cleared construction sites.
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