Hampton Roads, where sea level rise and recurrent flooding increasingly threaten to disrupt economic vitality and daily activities, is planning actions to adapt to these threats, according to this article by Joshua G. Behr, Rafael Diaz and Molly Mitchell, experts on tidal and other flooding issues. Behr is a research associate professor at the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center at Old Dominion University. Diaz is professor of supply chain management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Zaragoza Logistics Center, Spain, and holds a doctorate in modeling and simulation from Old Dominion University. Mitchell is a scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, a part of the College of William & Mary.
Directed by the General Assembly in 2015 to engage in comprehensive planning processes that include strategies to combat sea level rise and recurrent flooding, local governments in Hampton Roads have begun to incorporate adaptation strategies in local plans and help households and businesses plan individual adaptive measures.
The authors note that tidal surge flooding alone has increased from 1.7 days of “nuisance” flooding per year in 1960 to 7.3 days per year in 2014 while precipitation-induced flooding is becoming more common as well. The City of Portsmouth surveyed 1,978 households in 2015 and found one-third of residents report flooding in their neighborhoods at least a couple of times a year and nearly half the residents report not being able to get in or out of their neighborhoods within the past year due to flooding.
The authors report there is a strong perception among residents that future economic opportunities will be curtailed by changing sea levels. Adaptation strategies in response to recurrent flooding fall into three broad categories: retreat, accommodation and protection. A resilient community is one that effectively reduces its vulnerabilities, as Portsmouth and other localities are planning to do.