Sea level rise impacts Hampton Roads: What does this mean for Norfolk?


Courtesy of Mrs. Robb

Gabby Allen and Calie Quinn, Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief

The phrase “tidal flooding” makes residents in Norfolk cringe. Between neighborhoods in Ghent, residents in Larchmont, or the Hague, Norfolk flood during minimal rainfall or even just a high tide, such as the November 5th “King Tide.”
According to numerous studies by the Board of Concerned Scientists, the land around Norfolk is sinking. This rapid sinking is due to adjustments in the earth’s crust as a response to the melting of glaciers. According to U.S. Geological Survey, sea level rise is occurring at twice the global average in Norfolk, which is the highest rate along the Atlantic coast.
“The average temperature of the earth as a whole is increasing,” said AP Environmental teacher, Dr. Thomson, “but some of the areas of the Earth are getting colder.” Though the bigger picture, concerning the increasing temperature of the Earth, may be cloudy, the pressing issue for Norfolk residents has become an everyday issue.
Aggressive sea level rise doesn’t just affect Norfolk residents, but also the Naval bases that are located across the area. Besides being well known for its unfortunate flooding problem, Norfolk is also known to be home to the largest Naval operation in the world. In the last couple of decades, the Naval bases have had to build two levels to their docks due to the rising sea levels. If that wasn’t worrisome enough, according to the Board of Concerned Scientist, water has risen one and a half feet since the 1920’s. While the Navy is showing obvious concern over sea level rise, so too is the local government.
“We’re 400 years old and have survived wars, a plague, hurricanes, and social upheaval. Each time we come back stronger than before. We recognize the challenges we face and we are addressing them head-on through our resilience strategy,” said Lori Crouch, the Corporate Communications Director of the City of Norfolk.
With water levels rising, and dismal flooding that makes living in Norfolk a challenge, city officials have taken all of these factors into account. Such officials have already started coming up with proactive ideas that could potentially mend Norfolk’s water control problem.
Though a serious issue, Norfolk is not without a few plans for the future. “The first goal is to design the coastal community of the future,” said Crouch. In 2015, Norfolk hosted the Dutch Dialogues – a workshop that brought together a variety of water management experts from other states and countries to discuss ideas and solutions for the future – which set some of these plans in motion. Representatives have already come forth to develop innovative ideas for “living with water.”
The plan, “living with water,” explained Crouch, “…was a departure from the past where [officials] looked to keep the water out.” Realizing that Norfolk is a port city and water is inevitable, ideas were changed and new goals were set. Now the city is looking for ways to hold water, not keep it out.
The city and residents in the Hampton Roads area recognize the issue of rising tides, which is why partners in the private and public sectors are encouraged to contribute their own ideas. The King Tide, for example, created a massive group effort in which over 500 Hampton Roads residents tracked astronomical tide, according to an article by the Virginian-Pilot. The event was likewise called “Catch the King.”
“The issue of sea level rise is a complex one and the average citizen may not think she can make a difference as an individual. The Catch The King event changed that: by making the Sea Level Rise app available to anyone with a smart phone, Wetlands Watch created a fleet of citizen scientists eager to do their part and help map the tide in their neighborhood,” said Technology Innovation Specialist Mrs. King who mapped the tide in her neighborhood.
Sea level rise isn’t just relevant to the environment; in fact, its impact influences many other aspects of our community. “We believe sea-level rise gives us an opportunity for innovation and economic diversity,” said Crouch.
Though still a topic of controversy, the direness of sea level rise in Norfolk has spurred many to unite and formulate new ideas to help save the sinking city.