As rainstorms grow more severe and frequent, communities fail to prepare for risks

“The take-home message is that infrastructure in most parts of the country is no longer performing at the level that it’s supposed to because of the big changes that we’ve seen in extreme rainfall,” said Daniel Wright, a hydrologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and co-author of the study.

He points to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which found heavy downpours increased 71 percent in the Northeast, 37 percent in the Upper Midwest, and 27 percent in the Southeast from 1958 to 2012. It may cost more initially to build for bigger storms, but it’s less expensive than making fixes later, said Constantine Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

“The place that we want to get to is designing for the future rather than designing for the past,” he added.