For 2 years, Virginia Wasserberg and Bob Jennings have been working tirelessly to stop the recurrent flooding in their town of Virginia Beach. Today the Virginia legislature will recognize the work of the organization they founded, Stop the Flooding NOW, with House Resolution 292. The resolution also recognizes their partners, coastal resources scientist Michelle Covi of Old Dominion University in Norfolk and AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange.
The resolution reads, in part, “Stop the Flooding NOW has worked with other groups concerned with flooding throughout the country, including churches, civic organizations, Flood Forum USA, and Thriving Earth Exchange and its Community Science Connect program sponsored by the American Geophysical Union.”
The resolution “solidifies the work we’ve been doing as volunteers in Virginia Beach,” says Wasserberg. “And it brings a sense of accomplishment to our community. It really means a lot to me to have the community recognized in such a way.”
Wasserberg and Jennings organized Stop the Flooding NOW after Hurricane Matthew hit in late September 2016. Over 24 centimeters of rain fell in some areas of Virginia Beach, overwhelming the municipal stormwater system. Nearly 2,000 homes in the central part of the city were flooded. Wasserberg and Jennings saw an opportunity to draw together a group of concerned citizens to work on behalf of all residents who were experiencing chronic flooding. They quickly realized that they needed to understand the science behind flooding and began asking around about how to recruit a scientist with the expertise that could help them.
Thriving Earth Exchange, AGU’s program that helps scientists and community leaders work together to tackle local issues, connected Wasserberg and Jennings with Covi, an assistant professor of ocean, Earth, and atmospheric sciences. Together, they began to analyze the flooding and share what they were learning with residents and lawmakers.
In April 2018, Wasserberg, Jennings, and Covi hosted a community event that attracted over 70 people to learn about the effects of sea level rise, flooding, and climate change in the region. Neighbors attended to express their concerns and become more informed about the consequences of their changing environment.
Since then, the group has had great success connecting with state lawmakers. In the last 2 years, Wasserberg and Jennings have incorporated the science they learned with Covi into dozens of speeches and presentations at city council meetings. They’ve also held rallies to advocate for their rights, as citizens, to apply scientific results to protect their homes and businesses and promote flooding solutions.
“Stop the Flooding NOW is the community of Virginia Beach,” said Wasserberg. “These are people who work together to educate themselves on flooding, climate change and make a difference in their neighborhoods and backyards.”
—Sarah Wilkins ([email protected]), Thriving Earth Exchange Project Manager, AGU