Occasionally, coffins have floated from their burial sites six feet under to unexpected places. The only time this happened en masse in US history was during the construction of TVA dams that created some of the largest inland lakes in America.
A more recent flooding of graves across the country has begun in areas likely to be affected by climate events. The events that cause flooding have begun to rise in numbers, and this is expected to worsen. Not only will it be disturbing, it will also be expensive.
USA Today described the problem as “floating coffins.” The news outlet reported: “Trying to keep things buried that you want to stay buried is often a really big challenge,” said Allen Gontz, a professor of applied geology at Clarkson University. With hurricanes, inland floods, and rising sea levels, the challenge will move from thousands of coffins to tens of thousands If correct, FEMA floodplain maps indicate the count of buried bodies that could be flooded will be closer to hundreds of thousands by 2050. (There are over 144,000 graveyards and cemeteries in America).
The estimated cost to rebury these displaced coffins is between $8,000 and $10,000 per coffin, although there are no significant facts to support this. It may be hard to locate and identify a floated coffin. New burial grounds may not be immediately available. Sometimes, an old coffin is destroyed.
Fortunately, the federal government will sometimes cover the costs of reburial. FEMA has a program for burial expenses after a national disaster. However, the paperwork may be a problem. The requirements for reimbursement for reburial of a coffin will at least include an official state-issued death certificate, evidence of unmet funeral expenses, and confirmation that funeral expenses have not been paid for by other resources. As global warming continues, FEMA may run out of money. What then?