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Top Cities at Serious Risk of Flooding in Virginia

Here are the top 10 cities in Virginia that are at the highest risk of flooding based on the latest climate data. You'll also find tips to help prepare your home.

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When Hurricane Irene swept through in 2011, it flooded more than 50,000 properties in Virginia. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel weighed in at 105,000 properties flooded. 

More than half a million Virginia properties have been identified as at risk of flooding over the next 30 years. Of those, 133,700 have a 99% chance of flooding at least once during that time. 

Virginia Cities at Risk of Flooding

The First National Flood Risk Assessment in 2020 provided a state-by-state review of flooding risks. It found 344,400 properties at risk in Virginia, and expect that number to grow to 389,700 by 2050. That means that more than 15% of properties in the state are at risk of flooding over the next 30 years.

The current FEMA flood insurance rate maps show only 162,500 properties at substantial risk. The 2020 study includes areas that FEMA hasn’t yet mapped. Plus, it adds precipitation as a separate risk and takes into account current climate data.

Here’s the list of cities at greatest risk ranked by the number of properties at risk. That number is followed by the percentage of properties at risk in that community. 

CityPropertiesPercentage of total properties
Virginia Beach28,94320%
Norfolk18,04227%
Hampton16,82033%
Chesapeake16,54319%
Portsmouth8,54324%
Newport News7,28514%
Roanoke6,44415%
Richmond5,0677%
Chincoteague4,51580%
Poquoson3,90773%

The report also shows Washington, D.C. with 7,300 properties at substantial risk of flooding, which is 5.3% of all properties. While levees protect the National Mall and surrounding offices, Foggy Bottom and Buzzard Point are at high risk from river flooding. 

Highlights in Our Hometowns

We’ve taken just a bit closer look at the locations in Virginia where we have offices.

Virginia Beach, unfortunately, ranks at the top of the list with nearly 29,000 properties at risk of flooding. Perhaps even more staggering is that the number of properties at risk is expected to grow to 52,000 by 2050. That’s an increase of 80%.

Our Chester office is in Chesterfield County. FEMA currently shows 1,911 properties at risk in the county. But the First National Flood Risk Assessment (FNFRA) finds 6,222 at risk. This is important to keep in mind as you assess your home’s flood risk. Just because it isn’t shown on FEMA’s listing doesn’t mean it isn’t at risk.

Manassas has 200 properties on the FEMA listing, only 1.5% of total properties. The FNFRA finds 427 at risk. That’s more than twice as many as on the FEMA listing. 

Of Roanoke’s 44,479 properties, FEMA lists 4% or 1,793 at risk of flooding. But the FNFRA report finds 5,040 at risk. That’s a whopping 180% difference. This is clearly something to keep in mind when considering your home’s flooding risk.

Appomattox County shows 124 properties, 1.1% of the total, at risk of flooding on the FEMA listing. As could be expected, the FNRFA report finds 561 properties at risk. That’s a stunning 352% difference. 

Flood Insurance

Almost 96,000 home and property owners in Virginia have made flood damage claims through the National Flood Insurance Program or Individual Assistance Program since 2000. 

It’s important to note that these claims are specifically against dedicated flood insurance coverage, not homeowner’s insurance policies. We’ve prepared a guide to help you better understand the differences in coverage and help you purchase the best coverage for your home. See our Virginia Homeowner’s Guide to Insurance and Flooding. Given the differences highlighted above between FEMA coverage maps and a broader review of risks, it’s critically important to make sure you have the right coverage.

You can use the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to map your own property to determine flooding risks. This can also help you access the National Flood Insurance Program. 

Protect Your Property from Flooding

Home flooding is a true catastrophe. However, any amount of water can lead to significant property damage. FEMA estimates one inch of water in an average 2,500-square-foot home can cause more than $25,000 in damage to the building and personal property.

Here are just some of the ways you can protect your basement or crawl space, as well as the rest of your home.

  • Exterior Drainage. Water running into your gutters and through the downspouts must be routed well away from your foundation. This can be done with downspout extensions coupled with landscaping that slopes away from your home.
  • Interior Drainage. A waterproofing system for your basement or crawl space that includes interior drainage and a sump pump with battery backup will intercept and leaking water and move water out of your home before it builds up.
  • Drain Backflow Valves. Flooding can cause your drainpipes to back up, bringing raw sewage into your basement or crawl space. Backflow valves on these pipes can prevent it.
  • Smart Water Sensors. Sensors installed in your basement or crawl space and the lower levels of your home can notify you via a smartphone app that flooding is starting. You can then take immediate action.
  • Flood Vents. The vents allow water into your basement or crawl space to equalize the water pressure on the foundation walls. While allowing flooding, it prevents the greater problem of collapsed walls. This makes interior drainage and a sump pump even more crucial.
  • Elevated Utilities. During a flood, water can rise to submerge electrical outlets and cover extension cords. Ideally, the utilities should be rewired well above floor level. 

That’s a short list of the things you can do to protect your home from flooding. But if you’re in immediate danger from rising waters, it’s a matter of protecting your family. Moving to high ground or a second floor can be a critical step. Evacuation of the area is the absolute best approach.

Preparation

Starting with the list above is a good first step. We also recommend that you consult the professionals at JES Foundation Repair for a free inspection and repair estimate to identify any issues with your basement or crawl space that need attention in preparation for heavy rains and flooding.