WHRO Public Media has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for a reporting project titled “At A Crossroads” about sea level rise and its impacts in the region.

With the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, the James River, and the York River calling Hampton Roads home, most residents live within a few minutes of a large body of water. The proximity to these waterways represents an ever increasing threat. Coastal Virginia is experiencing some of the highest rates of sea level rise and is second only to New Orleans as the most vulnerable major population center in the country. Sea level rise in Norfolk has risen 80 percent higher (14.5”) than the global average (8”) in the last 140 years.

Much of the value to Hampton Roads communities is currently in harm’s way from the rising sea, including personal safety, neighborhoods, roads, businesses, the world’s largest naval base, historic resources, our cultural heritage and our collective way of life. Residents of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina face a crisis of not ‘if’ they need to relocate, but ‘when’ the rising sea levels and flooded streets will force them from their homes.

The decision of when to leave and where to go is a source of contention amongst locals, as well as what - if anything - the local governments can do to mitigate the waters looking to swallow the region. Through its "At A Crossroads" series, the WHRO journalists seek to engage with the most vulnerable communities, to detail their experiences and fears, and present the threats to our region in a way that is accurate, transparent, and can empower the region’s residents against this environmental crisis.

This project is a part of the Pulitzer Center's Connected Coastline reporting initiative and will include a series of broadcast radio stories and online multimedia content that explores this topic. The series kicks off in November on WHRV FM with a new broadcast feature story each week. 

WHRO is also partnering with ODU to develop an interactive map showing flood projections and social vulnerability in the region. Additionally, staff plan to host in-person or virtual discussions with experts and residents about sea level rise throughout the region.