What You need to Know
Newport News, like communities across the country, is at risk of flooding. Being a coastal community, our threats are somewhat different in that we are susceptible from tidal flooding and storm surge as well as from heavy rainfall and riverine flooding. Flooding can occur almost anywhere during periods of excessive rainfall which often accompanies tropical systems and Nor’Easters.
What Should I Do?
For information about what to do before, during and after a weather emergency, please go to the following links. There you will find information about how to make a plan, what to have ready and information about how to stay safe.
Newport News is collecting information about flooding and drainage issues throughout the city. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and will be used to inform the Stormwater Master Planning Effort.
For more information, please visit www.FloodSmart.gov.
FEMA, manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which sets rates and mitigates flood risk by zoning and building regulations.
The City is installing eight gauges to better detect and alert you to rising water. The City will provide a new alerting system later this summer which you can sign up for free.
Hurricanes can produce tidal flooding 8 feet or higher in Newport News depending on a variety of conditions.
These are based on the latest science and historical records which more accurately identify areas at risk in specific storms, so Know Your Zone.
Starting in 2023, Newport News is undertaking a multi-year, master planning effort to tackle flooding challenges.
Types & Causes of Flooding in Newport News
In an undeveloped area, nature takes care of the water runoff. It can:
- remain where it falls and evaporates
- become absorbed into the ground near the surface where it feeds trees and plants, or
- percolate deeply into the ground, and replenish the groundwater supply, or
- collect into streams and culverts.
However, runoff can occur if the rate of rainfall is more than what can evaporate or penetrate into the soil. It also happens when rain falls on impervious surfaces, such as roadways and other paved areas. When this happens, and it is unconfined flow, the broad sheets of water can cause sheet erosion or the uniform removal of soil in thin layers. It can also pick up and absorb or carry contaminants from the surface. When the amount of surface water runoff that goes into streams and rivers is greater than what it can carry, water overflows the stream banks, spilling out into adjacent low lying areas.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Storm surge is the abnormal rise in seawater level during a storm, measured as the height of the water above the normal predicted astronomical tide. The surge is caused primarily by a storm’s winds pushing water onshore. “
The exact height of the storm surge and which coastal areas will be flooded depends on many factors:
- the strength, intensity and speed of the hurricane or storm,
- the direction the storm is moving relative to the shoreline,
- the slope of the sea floor is along the shore.
Storm surge causes sea levels to rise for a relatively short period of time, typically four to eight hours often resulting in extensive coastal flooding that can weaken or destroy coastal structures. Some areas may take much longer to recede to their pre-storm levels. Storm surge permits “dangerous and battering waves” and floating debris to come in contact with coastal areas and structures not built to withstand the punishing effects of ocean waves.
Battering waves cause beach erosion and extensive damage to coastal structures such as buildings, roadways, bridges, marinas, piers, boardwalks, and sea walls. Breaking waves at the shoreline become very destructive, causing damages to natural and manmade structures by hydrodynamic pressure, battering solid objects and scouring sand from around foundations.<>
While hurricanes are the most violent type of storm and receive the most attention, serious flooding and erosion problems are also caused by other coastal storms. In the Atlantic, extratropical storms also known as Nor’Easters, develop in the fall, winter and spring occurring much more frequently than tropical hurricanes. They may be more than 1,000 miles in diameter, much larger than a tropical hurricane. Maximum winds speeds of Nor’easters are usually of lower than those of tropical hurricane winds, some wind gusts with hurricane velocity of 75 miles/hr. or greater. These storms may stall off the coast of the North Atlantic states and produce high tides that persist for several days.
Overbank flooding of rivers and streams is the increase in volume of water within a river channel and the overflow of water from the channel onto an adjacent area of low-lying ground. This represents the classic flooding event that most people associate with the term “flood.” Overbank flooding is the most common type of flood event. Hundreds of riverine floods, great and small, occur annually in the United States.
The City of Newport News is situated at the junction of the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. Due to this location, many of the effects of riverine flooding along the James River are lessened in the Chesapeake Bay resulting in flooding more like tidal flooding. Along rivers such as the James, the timing and elevations of flood peaks can be predicted relatively far in advance and with considerable accuracy.