Residential flood vulnerability along the developed North Carolina, USA coast: High resolution social and physical data for decision support

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Narcisa Pricope (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:

Abstract: This article presents an ArcGIS geodatabase of socio-demographic and physical characteristics derived from recent high resolution data sources to construct measures of population vulnerability to inundation in the 28 counties of coastal North Carolina, U.S.A. as presented in Pricope et al., 2019. The region is simultaneously densely populated, low-lying and exposed to recurrent inundation related to storms and incremental sea level rise. The data presented here can be used as a decision support tool in coastal planning, emergency management preparedness, designing adaptation strategies and developing strategies for coastal resilience. The socio-demographic data (population and housing) was derived from 228 tables at the block-group level of geography from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau. These data were statistically analyzed, using Principal Component Analysis, to identify key factors and then used to construct a Social Vulnerability Index (SOVI) at the block-group level of geography which highlighted regions where socio-demographic characteristics such as family structure, race, housing (primarily owner vs. renter-occupied), special needs populations (e.g. elderly and group living), and household/family size play an overwhelmingly important role in determining community vulnerability from a social perspective. An index of physical exposure was developed using the National Flood Hazards Maps (available from North Carolina's Flood Risk Information System and FEMA) along with a novel building inventory dataset available from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety that contains the Finished-Floor Elevation of every structure in the state. We took advantage of the unprecedented high spatial resolution nature of the building inventory dataset to calculate an index of physical vulnerability to inundation of every block group in the 28 coastal counties relative to Base Flood elevations and identified hotspots where this intersection predisposes people to an increased risk of flooding. Here, we present the final derived dataset containing the social, physical and an integrative measure of vulnerability to flooding that can be used at multiple scales of analysis, starting with the regional, county, local, and neighborhood to identify areas of priority intervention for risk-reduction in coastal planning and emergency management preparedness as well as forward-looking adaptation strategies.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
flooding, coastal North Carolina, climate change

Email this document to