On vulnerable Va. coast, fear of flooding on rise
VIRGINIA BEACH — When floodwaters poured into Holly Furlong’s Virginia Beach home in October, she ripped out electrical cords and rushed her four children upstairs. They spent the next two days without power, building blanket forts while anxiously waiting for sewage-tainted waters to recede.
Nearly two months later, Furlong, 34, said she’s being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It changes your sense of security,” she said of the flooding that inundated 1,400 homes and business in Virginia Beach after weeks of rain. “It kind of bursts your optimistic bubble for life. Things that didn’t seem possible, because they were so bad, seem possible.”
In a region under siege from rising sea levels, the heavy rains brought flood worries to a new level. Instead of the storm surge many fear, the rain overwhelmed drainage systems in neighborhoods miles from the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby Chesapeake Bay. Homes that never flooded before were overrun with two or three feet of water.
Experts warn that flooding will likely increase in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region, where Virginia Beach and six other cities are clustered on or near the state’s low-lying coast. The land is sinking and the sea is rising at the highest rate on the East Coast, they say. Global warming threatens to draw more intense rain storms up the Eastern Seaboard.