Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hampton's Battle Against Sea-Level Rise - Lessons for Others

Map of Hampton - our home is at the bottom of the map near the designation :elevation in progress."
2009 Nor'Ida storm flooding.

As I have noted in numerous posts on this blog, climate change and rising sea levels are real for those living on the Virginia coast as my husband and I do even if Donald Trump and most Republicans (including those in the Virginia General Assembly) deny these objective realities.   The image above shows our home during the 2009 Nor'Ida storm - a northeaster which teamed up with the remnants of Hurricane Ida to wreak havoc on many coastal properties in Virginia.  Repairs to our home - which took 6 months to complete  - made our home flood resistant to minimize future flood damage.  Later additions included industrial sump pumps to fend off standing water in our home and a whole house generator to power the pumps.  As a piece in the Washington Post reports, across the City of Hampton, both city officials and private citizens are working to deal with the reality that Republicans and Trump deny is occurring. Here are article highlights (read the entire piece and keep in mind that our home is NOT as low lying as some addressed in the article):
 — A pair of nor’easters in early 1998, and Hurricane Isabel in 2003, awoke this low-lying Chesapeake Bay city to the impact of rising waters caused by climate change. A few years later, as Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, and Hurricane Sandy raked the New Jersey-New York coastline, scientists warned that Hampton and its neighbors could be next.

So this small city, about the size of Alexandria, embarked on studies of what was happening and what it could do.
Six years later, the city has changed its building codes, razed some houses and elevated others, and is finalizing a plan to address the oft-flooded Newmarket Creek in its densely developed center. In neighborhoods that line the bay, homeowners are taking action, too.
How Hampton copes with rising sea levels could provide lessons for other localities at a critical time:recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicted that 300,000 existing homes and businesses in the United States will be at risk of chronic, disruptive flooding within the next 30 years.
“Nobody is underestimating what this is,” said Terry O’Neill, director of community development in Hampton and the lead person shaping the city’s response to sea-level rise. “If you make smart decisions and change the way you think about living with water, you can find solutions.”
In forming their plans, city leaders gleaned ideas from Dutch engineers who have protected their low-lying country from seawater inundation for centuries, as well as scientific gatherings and community meetings.
They now require first floors of new buildings to be three feet higher than the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirement, and they are considering “no-runoff” pervious pavement for sidewalks and parking lots, which will allow standing water to drain into the soil slowly. The city is working on creating breakwaters in parts of the bay, dredging certain channels and replenishing beaches to make them more resilient to waves.
No matter how it’s done, addressing sea level rise is expensive. In November, the Army Corps of Engineers told the much-larger city of Norfolk, just across the James River, that it would cost $1.8 billion to build flood walls, storm-surge barriers and tidal gates around the city. Norfolk has secured a $120 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Rockefeller Foundation to begin that work.
Both Hampton and Norfolk participate in the 17-city Hampton Roads Regional Planning Commission, which focuses on research and coordination rather than setting standards or requirements for addressing sea level rise.
City officials also are banking on the fact that if their flood-mitigation plans work, property values will rise, boosting tax revenue that could help pay for the effort.
Unlike some of the homes in the article, our home cannot be readily raised due to the nature of its construction.  Therefore, we had to improvise and find others methods for dealing with flood threats.  Thus, after the 2009 Nor'Ida storm, everything on the first floor from the chair rail level down is non-water absorbent - living areas, laundry room, pantry.  Everywhere. Similarly, all water absorbent flooring was removed and marble floors were added in their place. The marble floors throughout do not absorb water and require a simple sweep of a mop for clean up.  The generator powered sump pumps should prevent standing water in the house from ever occurring in future storms.  The overall effect is elegant but so very practical and purpose designed.

A large industrial sump pump sits under the multi-color vase.

The marble floors and composite/PVC wainscoting do not absorb water.

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