Virginia Institiute of Marine Science gives Tidewater Neighborhoods a Flood-predicting Tool

Feb 18, 2019

For neighborhoods along the Atlantic coast and the Chesapeake Bay, recurrent flooding that comes with climate change makes it hard to navigate, especially during seasonal high tides and more frequent extreme wind events like Nor'easters.

Now, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science has a tool to help people throughout the region prepare for a flood.

The new tool, called the Tidewatch MapViewer, is part of the ADAPTVA website dedicated to climate adaptation. The tool allows users to access a 36-hour coastal flooding forecast map to determine their risk. 

Molly Mitchell is a marine scientist at VIMS who specializes in sea-level rise and adaptation.  "In certain parts of Hampton Roads when we get these King Tides, so sunny day flooding, you don't even think it's going to be a problem," Mitchell explains.  "You park your car somewhere, you come back it's in water."

This screenshot from ADAPTVA.org shows area covered by Tidewatch Map Viewer tool.

The tool is a response to these kinds of problems as well as for emergency managers who have trouble accessing flooded neighborhoods. "What we heard over and over again is 'yes, you have predictions at the tide gauges telling us what the water-level is. That doesn't mean anything to us on land. I need to know whether my car is going to flood in the parking lot and I don't know what the elevation of that parking lot is and I don't know how that relates to your tide gauge,'" Mitchell says.

Click here for the Tidewatch MapViewer tool

So, scientists took data from NOAA tide gauges out on the water and used it to create the Tidewatch Map Viewer, a predictive system for people to use on land. Scientists are also working to create a network of sensors in small creeks that would give flood warnings to residents there. Eventually, the system could be incorporated into your GPS to give alternative routes to flooded roads.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.