Virginia Beach City Council addresses sea level rise, briefed on potential long-term flooding fix

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The images of flooding from Hurricane Matthew are hard to forget. Tuesday night, city council was briefed on the steps being taken to hopefully fix it long-term. The global sea level has been rising for the past century because of various environmental factors. That leads to damaging storm surges and increased flooding we see in Hampton Roads.

Deputy City Manager Tom Leahy briefed city council on what's been in the works for years.

"This area right now is subject to tidal and storm surge flooding. The only difference is severity, looking at what that would be if you add 1.5 or three feet of sea level rise to those numbers," said Leahy.

In his presentation, Leahy said the intensity and frequency of rainfall are rising. In 2016, he said Virginia Beach experienced three storms with 100-200 year or greater return periods. A 100-year flood has a one percent chance of happening in any given year and buildings in a 100-year flood plan have a minimum of a 26 percent chance of flooding during the typical 30-year mortgage period. Based on studies the city is conducting, 1.5 feet of sea level rise could attribute to about $85.58 million in losses per year.

"The rising water is actually part of the problem. The problem where stormwater systems isn't working is because the ocean level has risen in the last 50 years since these systems were built and constructed," said Leahy.

Studies are currently being done to find ways to adapt to these changes, including identifying and prioritizing which areas could need the most help.

"We're looking at a couple dozen different alternatives and strategies. Some are structural including seawalls, levees, pumps. Also rising homes or designing, modifying homes to be more resilient to nuisance flooding," said Leahy.

He added they're also looking at environmental changes including land-use alternatives, programs helping people get out of the way of flooding or learning to handle or adapt to flooding better.

To view the entire presentation Click here.