Report: Norfolk could see more flooding, due in part to El Nino

Posted at 3:08 PM, Sep 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-16 15:08:25-04

Hampton Roads, Va. – When it rains in Norfolk, it floods – a lot.  And according to a report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the city could see even more flooding, due in part to El Nino.

In a report, called “2014 State of Nuisance Tidal Flooding,” Norfolk is among several Mid-Atlantic and West Coast communities that could see the highest number of nuisance flooding days on record through April 2016.

To read the 2014 State of Nuisance Tidal Flooding Report, click here.

The report, released on September 9, defines nuisance flooding as a daily rise in water level above minor flooding thresholds set locally by forecasters and emergency managers for coastal areas prone to flooding.  Nuisance flooding events typically cause public inconveniences, like frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm water systems, and compromised infrastructure.

So why could cities like Norfolk see more flooding?

Well, the study says it’s all due to higher sea levels and more frequent storm surge, compounded by the strengthening El Nino.  In fact, El Nino is expected to continue into the spring.  In addition, the report says areas like Norfolk “may experience a 33 to 125 percent increase in the number of nuisance flooding days” through this April.

The report highlights nuisance flood frequencies from May 2014 through April 2015 at 27 NOAA tide stations around the U.S., which have collected weather date for more than 50 years.  And for the first time, the report gives an experimental outlook through next spring, considering historical flooding trends and differences typical during El Nino.

In Norfolk, the study found that between May 2014 and April 2015, the city had eight nuisance flood days.  And based on the experimental outlook, the city may experience 18 days through April 2016, a 125 percent increase over the projected eight days.

Other cities that could see an increase in nuisance flooding include Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Wilmington, NC, Sandy Hook, NJ, and San Francisco, CA.

Dr. Holly Bamford, assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service, says studies like this help coastal community and regional planners in preparing their communities from nuisance flooding and the increased risk of storm surge, which can come from those events.

Source: NOAA