Sen. Warner talks sea level rise impact in Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — There’s concern over sea level rise throughout Hampton Roads. That’s why Senator Mark Warner met with local leaders about the issue on Friday.

Representatives from the City of Norfolk and Old Dominion University guided Sen. Warner on a tour around The Hague, one of Norfolk’s most flood-prone areas.

The group then sat down to discuss ways in which people can better adapt to rising water.

“It’s a national issue. It’s not just in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. It’s Philadelphia, Boston, New York,” said Larry Atkinson, an oceanography professor at ODU.

Atkinson says communities like Norfolk are already seeing the effects. Many homes have had to be raised and there’s a need to make the downtown seawall taller.

“Sea level rise real,” said Warner. “Churches in Norfolk have to change their schedules because of the tides because of the constant threat of flooding.”

Christine Morris, Norfolk’s Chief Resilience Officer, says population centers could shift, and the downtown area could look different in the future. She says statistics show that there could be more, stronger storms in the future, which could propel the rate of the sea rising.

“This is both a challenge and an opportunity,” said Warner. “Can we make Norfolk the example, the city and community that leads and tries to get resiliency right.”

Atkinson says the sea will likely be two feet high by the end of the century. At the same time, the land is gradually sinking.

“Two feet of water would mean all the main roads to the Navy base would be flooded almost all the time, certainly at high tide. Twice a day you’d be driving through salt water,” said Atkinson.

Representatives from ODU say they want to be a national leader on climate change. The first step is creating a specialized center for sea level rise at the university.

They asked for Sen. Warner’s help Friday in creating that designation.

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