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Mace and Crown | May 24, 2018

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Norfolk Treads Water, Sea-Levels Rise

Justin L.C. Ross | Contributing Writer


As the 2017-2018 hurricane season approaches, it is prudent for residents and Monarchs to make themselves aware of the City of Norfolk’s pattern of recurring flooding, if they wish to stay dry. Particularly because, as a 2012 Washington Post article says, “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns that Hampton Roads, anchored by Norfolk, is at the greatest risk from sea-level rise for a Metro Area its size, save for New Orleans.”

In addition, the United States Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that it expects an “above normal” Atlantic hurricane season.

With these facts in mind, all Monarchs should make themselves aware of Norfolk’s flood zone, hurricane evacuation routes, and the necessary steps to be taken in the likely event of a Hurricane or mass flooding incident.

As climates continue to warm, the danger of flooding and sea-level rise increases significantly. The Post article noted, “Sea-level rise isn’t expected to significantly affect most American cities for at least 30 years. But Hampton Roads — including Virginia Beach and Portsmouth on Norfolk’s borders — is already knee-deep in floodwaters because, as one activist said, the area is ‘as flat as a pancake’ and Chesapeake Bay river tributaries slice deeply inland.”

In regards to always staying prepared, is up to the individual to make themselves aware of the situation and act accordingly for their friends, neighbors, and community. For instance, there are three distinctive types of flooding that at first glance might not seem important to distinguish, but for insurance and safety purposes, are worth noting.

According to the City of Norfolk’s website on flooding strategy, the first classification of flooding is precipitation flooding which “occurs when rain intensity exceeds capacity of our storm drain systems due to blockages or naturally depressed elevations.”

The next, defined as storm flooding, “is caused by storm surges resulting from events such as hurricanes and nor’easters and is directly related to land elevation and proximity to coastline. High tides magnify this storm damage.”

The last classification of flooding is known as tidal flooding, “caused by tidal variations and is directly related to land elevation and proximity to coastline. Tidal flooding may occur on a regular basis due to normal moon cycles and is exacerbated by wind speeds and directions, sea level rise, and other types of flooding.”

The risks for hurricane damage due to flooding and the need to be aware for the upcoming hurricane season was also stressed by local 13-News-Now meteorologist, Tim Pandajis, “It is very important for students to be aware of the weather as it unfolds. To track storms as they develop by staying tuned to 13-News-Now.” Mr. Pandaijis continued to highlight the idea that “the most significant threat facing our area is tidal flooding. An example of this would be Hurricane Mathew, affects lasted for days and caused significant damage to the Hampton Roads Region.”

In addition, The Washington Post also reported that, “the ground is sinking in Tidewater, as Hampton Roads is also known. It sits in the nation’s largest known geologic impact crater, an Ice Age formation that’s causing land to drop about seven inches every century, accounting for about one-third of the sea-level-change.”

The Old Dominion University Resilience Collaborative (ODU-RC) is a campus organization dedicated to studying Norfolk’s flooding. ODU-RC “consists of a consortium of leading scholars actively engaged in research, education, and outreach on critical issues for resilience at the community, regional, and global levels.”

This team of devoted individuals’ main focus for the 2017-2018 year consists of four elements, according to their newsletter: “Critical infrastructure resilience, flooding resilience, urban visioning, coastal science and engineering.”

Professor Michelle Covi of the ODU-RC stressed the importance for “students to become aware of the flooding patterns in the entire Hampton Roads region; particularly those associated with smaller storms and hurricanes.” Professor Covi then went on to discuss ways in which Monarchs can help to alleviate the problems of flooding, “The WAZE App, is an outstanding public resource available for mass communication between residents of Hampton Roads to stay informed of flood patterns, and occurrences of flooding throughout the region.”

Professor Covi also said, “It is very important for all Monarchs to remember to never drive through tidal flooding waters, as the brackish water contains high levels of saline, and this has the potential to damage the electronic systems of the vehicle.”

Dr. Daniel P. Richards, assistant professor of English, who specializes in technical communication – specifically the communication of risks to the public underlines the need for community cooperation. “While flooding affects some areas of Norfolk more than others, the fact remains that it is only a problem that can be addressed if the community comes together,” he says. “Despite the unfortunately partisan national level conversations about the causes of sea level rise, on a local level we need to do our best to fight against the waters currently impacting us.”

Dr. Richards went on to elaborate, “Vulnerable localities like Norfolk can improve its public health and sustainability moving forward by continuing to support initiatives and elect leaders that acknowledge the issue at hand and are willing to take steps to address an issue that, for many of us, we’re literally up to our knees in. On a practical level, this means gathering the appropriate emergency supplies and sharing with those most affected, keeping an eye out for those most negatively affected.”

In conclusion, Dr. Richards noted that, “On a broader level, this means paying close attention to the measures the city has taken and plans to take to ensure our city remains a vibrant, growing coastal community that remains a safe and healthy place to live.”

In present-day Norfolk, the need for community awareness and education on the individual is high in the rapidly changing environmental and geopolitical environment. However, as a team of devoted and practical individuals both campus and throughout the nation continue to work tirelessly, a much-needed mindset of clarity and practical solutions to these problems will continue to be developed.