Flooding Trends & Predictions

Hampton Road Flooding

Hampton Roads and many other communities along the eastern seaboard have seen an alarming trend in regards to flooding and the increased magnitude of storms, particularly in the last decade. While scientists are working hard to better understand why this is taking place, if you live, work or play in a coastal community it is important for you to understand your risks. There are 3 primary factors at fault for increased flooding seen in Hampton Roads.

  • Changing weather patterns and stronger storms, after a quiet period observed from 1971 to 1994 hurricane activity has increased since 1995.
  • Rising sea levels, as polar ice caps melt and sea-water temperature increases the sheer volume of water is expanding. View The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) interactive map.
  • Subsidence, this is a naturally occurring event for certain areas such as Hampton Roads; however, it has accelerated. The acceleration is partially due to groundwater withdrawal. As groundwater is taken from reserves found deep below the surface the land above it sinks.

This information was taken from research completed by a collaborative effort between College of William and Mary and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science known as The Initiative for Coastal Climate Change Research.

Storm Flood Risk

Storm event rainfall is not the only contributor to flooding, heavy winds and tidal pulls produce strong storm surges. When a high tide occurs in conjunction with intense wind patterns storm surges can significantly increase the risk of floods. Over the past 10 years Hampton Roads has seen a number of memorable storm events, such as:

  • 2003 Tropical Storm Isabel
  • 2006 and 2009 Nor’Easter events
  • 2011 Hurricane Irene

Local Flood Risks

Each of the localities comprising Hampton Roads are impacted differently and each deal with a different set of concerns. James City County (JCC) is fortunate in that ground elevations are typically higher than other communities in Hampton Roads; however, the risks to JCC are real. While evaluating your own risks please take the time to look at what is happening throughout Hampton Roads so you can better anticipate challenges felt throughout the region. Your preparedness plan should include an evacuation route. For more on sea level rise around the Chesapeake Bay, please see the Bay Journal’s article, Sea Level along Chesapeake rising faster than efforts to mitigate it.

More Information on Sea Level Rise