Flooding this year might not be bad, but it will get worse, according to report

·2 min read

The good news is that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) predicts the East Coast may not see record high tide flooding this year.

The bad news is that flooding will get worse over the decades.

Hampton Roads could see 10 to 15 days of high tide flooding for the year, according to NOAA’s 2022 flooding outlook report, which was released this week. This is similar to last year when the area saw about 13 days.

The number could jump to 85 to 125 days by 2050.

NOAA used data from 97 measuring tools to track tides and flooding along the East Coast from 1960 to 2022. It used gauges at Sewells Point in Norfolk and Kiptopeke Beach and Wachapreague on the Eastern Shore.

The report states that by 2050 sea levels could be 2 feet higher in Norfolk than where they were in 2000.

Coastal flooding will also become much more commonplace.

Flooding is determined by several factors including sea level rise, land sinkage and the destruction of natural barriers, such as wetlands. Modern infrastructure typically includes flat roads and sidewalks, which can worsen the flooding because it doesn’t stop the water. Flood gates, canals and drainage systems help, but there aren’t enough, especially in underserved areas.

According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 1 inch of flooding in a home can cause more than $25,000 in damage.

There are also indicators for predicting the severity of flooding during hurricane season. Scientists monitor how long La Niña weather patterns last to determine the number and severity of potential hurricanes on the East Coast.

La Niña occurs when warm water is pushed to southeastern Asia and the cool water left off the coast of the Americas causes warmer, dryer weather in the South and wetter weather in the North.

This year NOAA predicts La Niña to continue through the summer and potentially into the winter. However, “drier” is not the same as “dry.” La Niña conditions only help ease the impact of hurricanes and flooding because it causes less rainfall.

The moon is the greatest influencer of the ocean’s tides. The moon’s “wobble,” according to Willian Sweet, an oceanographer at NOAA, is helping suppress the effects of higher tides. The moon suppresses tides for half of an 18-year cycle and amplifies them the other half.

“They helped take the foot off the accelerator,” said Sweet in a press conference this week.

Everett Eaton, 262-902-7896, everett.eaton@virginiamedia.com