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cities at risk of flooding in North Carolina

Top Cities at Serious Risk of Flooding in North Carolina

Here are the top 10 cities in North Carolina that are at the highest risk of flooding based on the latest climate data. You'll also find tips to help prepare your home.

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North Carolina, from Atlantic Ocean beaches and the Outer Banks to the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, is a beautiful state. Unfortunately, it also has a high risk of floods from heavy rainfall and storms to hurricanes and overflowing rivers. 

As just two highlights, or lowlights, depending on your perspective, Hurricane Irene in 2011 affected 55,457 properties in the state. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 damaged 84,224 properties.

So what are the risks of flooding and what can you do about it?

North Carolina Cities at Risk of Flooding

The 2020 First National Flood Risk Assessment (FNFRA) estimated that 538,900 properties are at substantial risk of flooding in North Carolina. This is considerably above the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps that identify 276,900 properties at risk. The FNFRA assessment takes into account areas that FEMA hasn’t yet mapped as well as current climate data and adds precipitation as a separate risk. 

Here are the top 10 cities in North Carolina from the First National Flood Risk Assessment showing total properties at risk followed by the percentage of total properties.

CityProperties at riskPercentage of total properties
New Bern7,94048%
Elizabeth City5,51064%
Oak Island5,14142%

Our Hometowns’ Flooding Risks

We’ve gone slightly deeper into the numbers for the locations in North Carolina where we have offices.

Raleigh ranks number three in the above listing with 8,469 properties at flooding risk. If we expand our review to all of Wake County, it more than doubles the number of properties at risk to 17,358. This is in contrast to the FEMA assessment of 4,470 properties at risk of flooding in the county.

Winston-Salem weighs in at eighth on the list with 5,494 properties at risk. All of Forsyth County shows 7,462 properties with flooding risk, well above the FEMA assessment of 1,942 properties.

Flood Insurance 

You can access the National Flood Insurance Program by using the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to map your property to determine flooding risks. From there, you can purchase flood insurance. 

If your property is at risk of flooding, it’s wise to purchase separate flood insurance. Homeowner’s insurance only covers damage from internal sources of water, including burst pipes and overflowing toilets. It doesn’t cover damage caused by rain, storms, or flooding, which are from external sources.

Flood insurance can come in pretty handy in North Carolina. Since 2000, there have been 545,800 damage claims by home and property owners through the National Flood Insurance Program or the Individual Assistance Program. Make sure you have the necessary coverage for your home.

Flooding Protection for Your Property

FEMA estimates that just two inches of water in a 2,500-square-foot one-story home can cause $23,720 in damage to the home and $3,172 to personal property. That’s a sound reason to do what you can to protect your home. 

Here is a list of ways you can protect your home, basement, or crawl space from water damage caused by flooding.

  • Fix Exterior Drainage. Ensure your gutters and downspouts are sized adequately for the expected rainfall. Clean and repair any damage. Use downspout extensions and proper landscape grading to route water away from the foundation.
  • Install Basement or Crawl Space Drainage. An internal drainage system can collect leaks and a sump pump with battery backup can remove the water before it builds up.
  • Add Flood Sensors. Home security systems offer flood sensors that can detect rising water and alert you to take immediate action.
  • Move Utilities Higher. As floods threaten, move extension cords and electrical equipment off the basement floor using cement blocks. Also consider moving electrical wiring and outlets well above floor level on a permanent basis. 
  • Install Flood Vents. They can reduce water pressure on foundation walls by allowing water into the basement or crawl space. While causing some flooding damage, they can prevent far greater structural damage.
  • Use Backflow Valves. Sewage drain lines can back up due to flood waters. Backflow valves can prevent this from happening and contaminating your basement or crawl space.
  • Install Flood-Resistant Insulation and Drywall. This can help minimize the damage from flooding and allow for easier clean-up. Also consider installing tile flooring rather than carpeting.
  • Remove Your Valuables. If you’re storing valuables in the basement, move them to a higher floor during flooding conditions. That same suggestion applies to a basement office.

During any flooding, make sure you protect your family. Move to a higher floor or evacuate the premises if you’re in immediate danger from rising waters.


The list above is a good first step in preparing your home for flooding. We recommend that you consult the professionals at Tar Heel Basement Systems for a free inspection and repair estimate to identify any issues with your basement or crawl space that need attention in preparation for heavy rains and flooding.

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TarHeel Basement Systems Service Map

Our Locations

Fayetteville Location

3400 Walsh Pky, Suite 220
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Greensboro Location

611 Summit Ave, Suite 5
Greensboro, NC 27405

North Raleigh

208 Millbrook Rd. Suite C
Raleigh, NC 27609

Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill Location

3333 Air Park Road
Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526

Wilmington Location

1209 Culbreth Dr., Ste 205
Wilmington, NC 28405

Winston-salem / High Point Location

2910 Griffith Rd
Winston-Salem, NC 27103