Virginia Beach might just be the jewel of the so-called Tidewater Area (click here for the map). The collection of cities in Hampton Roads/Tidewater area also includes Norfolk, Newport News, Suffolk, Chesapeake and Portsmouth, and they collectively represent the largest metropolitan area in the United States to not have a major league franchise in any of the nation’s biggest sports. Virginia Beach itself is home to beautiful beaches with miles of crisp white sand with hotels overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, drawing in television events and tourists alike by the drove every summer season.
Many tourists and residents alike though know that this is also hurricane season, and they wonder why hurricanes are so strong if they hit Virginia Beach. This a growing area of concern for many, because at the time of writing, the state of Virginia had not taken a direct hit in over a century as storms were more likely to hit North Carolina or head north to New Jersey. As such, there’s not much data from previous storms about how bad a Virginia Beach landfall would be.
The northern latitude has something to do with that, as waters cool down and there is less wind, Virginia Beach has been statistically more likely to face a category one or two storm, rather than a three. However, as climate change warms the oceans, the cooler waters happen less and are moving north, so more severe storms are increasingly possible and with that comes water damage and related troubles for homeowners. Last time we got hit with a storm, my home got flooded and I had to speak with my insurance agent and company that helped with water damage restoration and storms’ aftermath.
Additionally, the low elevation of Virginia Beach and Norfolk both mean that storm surge would likely flood both cities entirely. The changes in barometric pressure in an actual hurricane would drastically raise the sea level, meaning water would come in across every square inch of the municipality. As such, most emergency management plans created by local and state authorities include reversing lanes on Interstate 64 so that the entire population could evacuate safely a day or two prior to the storm.
Unlike North Carolina, Virginia doesn’t really have any barrier islands sticking out into the ocean to absorb the first contact of hurricanes. While these do little to stop a storm, they are something of a speed bump that slows them down, weakening their intensity before they make mainland landfall.
Ironically, what protects North Carolina can sometimes be to Virginia’s detriment. A storm hitting North Carolina’s Outer Banks might stall a little, with part of the storm over the calmer waters of the ‘sounds’ separating the islands from the mainland. That often means the storms adjust their track, lurching north, and slowed down. That puts them over Virginia cities where they pour on a lot of rain. While not a direct landfall has happened in some time, storms that hit North Carolina have passed over Virginia territory and caused massive flooding.
It’s only a matter of time before a hurricane hits Virginia Beach, and with little standing between the coasts of Africa where many storms develop, and this tourist haven, the next one that does is likely to cause billions in damage to the property, although hopefully everyone will have gotten out long before.