Local college students research Ghent flood solutions

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — If you live in or around the Hague in Norfolk, no one has to tell you flooding is a major problem. The water builds up at certain times of the year thanks to storms and the tide.

Local students are trying to find ways to protect people and homes in the area. They met and discussed some potential solutions Thursday night.

Angella Dariah is a Hampton University graduate student from Connecticut. She had never seen tidal flooding until visiting Hampton Roads.

“It’s just crazy seeing people canoeing on the street,” Dariah said. “It’s an eye opener.”

Dariah and 15 other college students are part of the Coastal Community Design Collaborative studying flooding in Hampton Roads. The group is made up of Hampton University and Old Dominion University architecture and engineering students. This semester the students are studying ways to mitigate flooding in Ghent, specifically around the Hague.

“The problems are more severe because there’s a lot of drainage that comes towards the Hague,” said Mason Andrews, an Associate Professor of Architecture at Hampton University.

Thursday night, Andrews and the students invited Ghent residents to hear about their research halfway through the semester.

“We want to get some feedback from the neighborhood about what they think might work; find out a few things we’re doing that seem wrong,” said Andrews. “That will help steer the work for the rest of the semester.”

Students met with residents in August and conducted interviews. They’ve also been working with the Ghent Neighborhood League.

The students’ task is to mitigate flooding by creating barriers or absorbing water. Examples of absorbing the flood water include curbside rain gardens, permeable paving, and cisterns under the street. The students have come up with and researched barriers such as a sea wall and valves that attach to storm drains. They are all solutions the group thinks could reduce flooding significantly in Ghent and other Norfolk neighborhoods.

“It’s really good to find that there are things that can be done,” said Andrews.

Last semester, students studied the Chesterfield Heights neighborhood of Norfolk. Andrews said their models reduced flooding by 90 percent. She said the City of Norfolk has picked up on their ideas for that neighborhood and are looking into them, too.

The students will present their findings at the end of the semester on December 15. The meeting will be held at The Williams School on Colonial Avenue at 7 p.m.

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