Assessing Flooding and Hydrodynamics for Flood Prevention and Mitigation

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Featured image for the project, Assessing Flooding and Hydrodynamics for Flood Prevention and Mitigation

Results

Project Results for Virginia Beach, VA

Results

The focus of the Virginia Beach project was on improving communication between scientists, managers and community members experiencing the impacts of chronic and persistent flooding. The initial objective was for Stop the Flooding NOW and the Princess Anne Civic League to work with a science partner to create a more balanced, cost-efficient and timely solution to the issue of flooding in their neighborhoods.

The team used all available resources from the City of Virginia Beach and Old Dominion University to assess the neighborhood’s susceptibility to flooding and the impact of Sea Level Rise and Climate Change on tidal waters surrounding the neighborhood. Dr. Michelle Covi offered up articles for Virginia to read. Many of these resources helped inspire the work Virginia undertook to educate her community and local elected officials on the risks from flooding.

Both Virginia and Bob attended the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise Forums that Dr. Covi coordinated. This allowed the team to network and develop relationships with others across the Hampton Roads community. Norfolk, VA has set a model for much of the other cities across the Hampton Roads area and the team was able to learn from their examples.

Project Outputs:

  • April 8, 2018 community meeting focused on flooding in Virginia Beach, VA. For a complete overview, read the blog post.
  • Virginia worked hard to hone her videography skills – she created a number of videos on the flooding issues, including a video where she talks about how to report clogged drainage in neighborhoods to the City works department. She also interviewed Dr. Covi a number of times using Facebook Live to cover various questions and share information about flooding and drainage. She also worked with residents to utilize flooding-reporting apps to track flood incidents at the neighborhood scale.
  • October 14, 2018 Community rally which brought together 20 candidates up for election during the midterm elections in November. All of the candidates were introduced and then the floor was opened for people to share their personal flood story in 3 minutes. 80-90 community members attended and Dr. Covi provided a table of information on sea level rise.

Project Impacts:

  • The group achieved increased credibility on the issue of flooding and was able to attract the attention of State and Federal leadership to bring additional financial resources to help mitigate the flooding challenges.
  • As a result of this project, the neighborhood residents have become more aware of the issues of flooding and sea level rise.
  • The group brought the issue of flooding, sea level rise and climate to the foreground of local and state elections. As a result, flooding was the #1 issue in the 2018 midterm election, due to the group’s influence. The city has since re-committed more resources and funding to mitigation efforts. $130 million has been allocated over the course of 15 years for stormwater maintenance, canal and ditch dredging, replacing pipes, and for creating new positions in the stormwater management program.
  • The increased confidence that Stop the Flooding Now achieved helped them go on to convince the Virginia Beach City Council to stop the development of 32 homes over top a sensitive wetland.

Reflections:

From this project, others may learn better ways to partner with Thriving Earth Exchange for their own purposes. For instance,

The team noted that the following contributed to the success of the project:

  • Partnering with a reputable community science partner (Dr. Covi at ODU) helped lend credibility and access resources to increase their knowledge of the issue and have productive conversations with local elected officials.
  • Attending monthly meetings with the Thriving Earth Exchange Project Manager and Flood Forum USA helped them stay organized, accountable and focused.
  • Attending Flood Forum’s National monthly meetings with the full Flood Forum cohort allowed for peer-to-peer sharing and learning and helped Virginia gain new ideas and insights on how to achieve their goals.

However, there were a few key things that the team would do differently if they had the chance to do this project again:

  • Remain more politically neutral during the course of organizing and hosting the community rally with local candidates.
  • Consulted more with the Thriving Earth Exchange team outside of the monthly check-ins.
  • Improved the organization of project management, including keeping meetings on time and better focused.

To other teams currently pursuing Thriving Earth Exchange projects and for those that anticipate doing a Thriving Earth Exchange project, the team recommends:

  • Never be afraid to approach scientific and educational resources to help you understand something.
  • Stay strong with your original goal in mind.

Description

When Hurricane Matthew hit the Mid Atlantic in late September of 2016, the city of Virginia Beach experienced wide-spread flooding.  Over 10 inches of rain fell in this low-lying section of the city, overburdening its stormwater system.  Nearly 2,000 homes in the central part of the city were flooded.

The City of Virginia Beach is part of the larger Hampton Roads metropolitan area with a population over 1.7 million and mainly known for its large, natural harbor and military presence.  The area has one of the highest rates of sea level rise on the Eastern seaboard (approximately 4 mm per year on average) exacerbated by continued subsidence (or sinking) of the land.  The combination of sea-level rise, subsidence, aging stormwater infrastructure, and increased urban development mean that rainwater is unable to drain properly.  The Thalia Creek watershed, situated in the center of the city, sits within the larger Lynnhaven Watershed which drains to the Chesapeake Bay.  The Thalia Creek watershed is heavily developed with sparse open space to absorb rainwater during large storm events.

Residents have established two grass root groups to tackle flooding in and around the Thalia Creek watershed: Stop Flooding NOW and the Princess Anne Plaza Civic League Flooding Committee.  Stop the Flooding NOW was established as a Facebook group in 2017 as a resource for all Virginia Beach residents to share their experiences and seek solutions to flooding challenges together.  Over 1,000 people follow the group posts.  The Facebook group is not associated with City government but coordinates with the Princess Anne Plaza Civic League Flooding Committee.  The mission of the Committee is to work with city officials and its departments to find and implement solutions to mitigate the flooding.  Both groups have access to numerous engineering reports and the results of numerous workshops and forums.  Both would like to work closely with a dedicated hydrologist to synthesize the available reports, and develop next steps or proposed solutions. Both groups would use their enhanced understanding to have productive interaction with local decision-makers.

This project was conceived and designed in partnership with the Virginia Beach community leaders and Flood Forum USA.

Updates

Grassroots Group Commended for Work on Flooding by Virginia House

Stop the Flooding NOW was founded by Virginia Beach residents who wanted to take action to address the chronic flooding in their community.

Grassroots Group Commended for Work on Flooding by Virginia House

 

A Dream for Virginia Beach, VA

A Snapshot of Flooding in Virginia Beach, Virginia

All updates for this project

Project Team

Community Leads

Virginia Wasserberg is a member of the Princess Anne Plaza Civic League Flood Committee and the Leader of Stop the Flooding NOW in Virginia Beach, VA.

Virginia is a music major and homeschooling mother of two. In October of 2016 she and her husband, experienced a combined 18 inches of stormwater and sewage back-up due to heavy rains from two tropical storms and Hurricane Matthew. Virginia’s entire neighborhood was flooded and many homes were severely damaged. It took 3 months of restoration before Virginia and her family could move back into their Virginia Beach home.  Shortly after these events, Virginia became involved with her local Civic League, seeking solutions to the persistent flooding. After meeting with Virginia Beach City staff, Virginia was motivated to create a Facebook community page, Stop the Flooding NOW in an effort to connect residents with flooding on a more personal level. The page gained momentum in the following months and has become an important communication resource for many residents of Virginia Beach.

 

Scientific Lead

Michelle Covi is an Assistant Professor of Practice at Old Dominion University in the Department of Ocean Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and part of the Virginia Sea Grant extension program. She conducts research and outreach activities for climate change adaptation and coastal resilience efforts for coastal Virginia with an emphasis on Hampton Roads.  Her research areas include sea level rise and resilience risk perception and communication, public participation in adaptation planning processes and engagement/outreach practices. She co-organizes the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise/ Flooding Adaptation Forum, a quarterly meeting of adaptation stakeholders and co-chaired the Citizen Engagement Working Group of the Hampton Roads Intergovernmental Pilot Project.  She completed her doctorate in Coastal Resources Management at East Carolina University, where her focus was on sea level rise risk communication and policy research. She has a Masters degree in Zoology (Marine Science) from University of Georgia and a BS in Biology/Geology from University of Rochester.

 

Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of Thriving Earth Exchange’s cohorts.  Thriving Earth Exchange has partnered with Flood Forum USA which supports grassroots flood groups across the country by helping them develop strategies for a sustainable future.  Thriving Earth Exchange is working with 15 of their grassroots groups to connect them with scientists who can help them better characterize neighborhood-level flood risks and work effectively with local decision makers to mitigate those risks.

 

ISeeChange is dedicated to empowering communities to document and understand their environment, weather and climate in order to increase resilience. ISeeChange mobilizes communities to share stories and micro-data about climate impacts to inform and improve climate adaptation and infrastructure design. Their platform, tools, and investigations provide equitable, iterative ways for residents to personalize, measure, and track climate change impacts and better participate in community adaptation decisions.

Each post is synced with weather and climate data and broadcast to the community to investigate bigger picture climate trends. Over time, community members can track how climate is changing, season to season, year to year, and understand the impacts on daily life.

ISeeChange is a strategic partner of Thriving Earth Exchange as community members use their platform and tools to better characterize, visualize, and communicate neighborhood-level climate trends and co-develop solutions to mitigate those risks.