My latest feature for Coastal Virginia Magazine is about the imminent threat of rising sea levels in the Hampton Roads area.
In "The Water is Coming," you will hear from scientists, environmentalists, property owners and city planners about ongoing predictions that the Tidewater region will see several inches of increased tidal flooding in the coming years, and you'll also find out what's being done about it.
The article begins:
Brian Brennan looks out at the view from the Unitarian Church of Norfolk. “The shoreline has changed,” he says.
For years, grass grew up to the curb of the Yarmouth Street church, which sits along the Smith Creek tidal basin. But the grounds have been fouled so often with mucky river water that much of it has died. In the yard, you can see the color change from green to brown.
“The tidal flooding is such now that just about every high tide, the road in front of our church is flooded in places six inches to a foot deep,” UCN’s educational director says. To make sure that congregational members are fully informed about conditions, the staff now prints tidal predictions in its weekly bulletin and on its web site.
Sitting across from the upscale Hague neighborhood, near the Chrysler Museum, the church’s 112-year-old building has flooded from storms over the years, most recently from a Nor’easter five years ago. “It busted our boiler. We lost heat for about a month,” Brennan recalls. Since that flood, intruding water has been a persistent presence, and jokes about taking a raft or canoe to Sunday service have stopped being funny.
The Unitarian Church’s issues have made it something of a poster child for the problems of sea level rise in the region. “This is happening with greater frequency across Hampton Roads and it isn’t going away,” says Mike Tidwell, executive director of The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). The Maryland-based advocacy group recently held a press conference at the church to introduce a new report on the dangers faced by encroaching water called “Safe Coast Virginia.”
“This so-called ‘nuisance flooding’ is happening in coastal areas along the East Coast,” Tidwell maintains. “This is not from a storm surge, or heavy rain, this is flat out sea level rise, and it’s getting closer to the people. If we were to add to it a really heavy rain or storm, we’re talking about serious damage that could occur ... so right now the region is counting on luck to protect itself.”
You'll want to get the newsstand copy so you can see all the photos and the swell layout design. But you can read the rest of "The Water is Coming" online by clicking right here.
(Photo illustration by the mighty David Uhrin!)