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Hot spells could spell trouble for Hampton Roads & coastal communities

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Posted at 5:47 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 17:47:25-04

NORFOLK, Va. – The hot spells we’re seeing more and more of could eventually spell trouble for Hampton Roads, especially for our coastal communities.

“The increased heat is one of the main contributors to sea level rise across the planet and here in Hampton Roads,” said Morgan Butler, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELCVA).

Butler has been working on ways to combat erosion and flooding for years.

He said higher temperatures lead to more storms, heat waves and flooding, meaning those familiar sights of flooded streets and cars virtually under water could happen more often.

“The higher temperatures also cause evaporation and more moisture to be sticking in the atmosphere, so that is part of what’s driving the more intense storms that we’re seeing in Hampton Roads and across the country and across the world,” Butler said.

Butler warns warmer climates and greenhouse gases are raising the level of the ocean and the problems are only going to get worse.

The issue is putting our area’s Navy bases on high alert.

According to a recent study, increased flooding and sea level rise could weaken the bases’ infrastructure over time and cut off access.

“They’re really at a point where they have got to figure out how they’re going to address sea level rise and the impacts it will have on their bases,” said Butler.

The sweltering summer heat and global warming are also impacting agriculture.

“Hotter temperatures are drying out soil and makes it harder to grow crops,” Butler said. “Also, when you have these more intense rainstorms on top of that dryer soil, it’s going to wash that soil away.”

Experts say five of the hottest summers on record in Hampton Roads have been since 2010 – a sign that the area’s hottest temperatures are becoming the norm.

And when the temperatures cool down, that doesn’t mean these problems go away.

Butler says there is no quick fix but doing things like cutting down on the amount of driving we do and using more wind and solar energy, help.

“We got to use moments like these to try to help make sure everybody realizes these impacts are being felt broadly,” said Butler. “They’re impacting the region in many ways. We’ve got to take action and move forward more quickly.”