A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists lists Norfolk and the Outer Banks as areas on the East Coast where tidal flooding has starkly increased and is expected to continue to do so.
The study, titled “Encroaching Tides: How Sea Level Rise and Tidal Flooding Threaten U.S. East and Gulf Coast Communities over the Next 30 Years,” is based on an analysis of 52 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tide gauges in communities stretching from Portland, Maine to Freeport, Texas, using moderate sea level rise projections.
The report notes that as the sea levels continue to rise, this also increases the opportunity for tidal flooding during periods of high tide.
The UCS report notes that the number of days with tidal flooding events in Norfolk has tripled since the 1970s, with tidal flooding now occurring about once a month.
With the sea level predicted to rise at least six inches by 2030, the city could expect to see almost 40 tidal flooding events each year, quadrupling what we see today.
Keeping with that trend, that would mean the city could experience 180 tidal floods each year by 2045.
Numbers are similar in the Outer Banks, where the barrier islands currently see around eight tidal flooding events each year.
With the increasing sea level rise, projections show that Duck could see three times as many tidal flooding events each year – more than 30 by 2030.
By 2045, with sea levels expected to be a foot higher, the risks to property and residents are even greater.
The report notes that Norfolk is working hard to protect residents and critical infrastructure from sea level rise and tidal flooding. However, Mayor Paul Fraim has reportedly acknowledged that despite efforts to tackle the impacts, residents may need to eventually retreat from flood-prone areas.
As for the Outer Banks, the report also lists steps that communities are taking to build resilience such as beach renourishment, building dikes, raising houses and relocating roads. However, it’s noted that communities will need to look for other ways to protect infrastructure, housing, and wildlife habitats in the long-term.