National forecasters say high tide flooding hit record levels in some parts of North Carolina and expect it to be more common over the next 30 years.
High tide - or nuisance flooding - refers to flooding that happens at high tide in otherwise calm conditions.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says Wilmington had 14 days of high tide flooding in the past year.
Coastal North Carolina faces a two-pronged threat from hurricanes and the sea level rise that's causing high tide flooding, according to Oceanographer William Sweet.
“You can put houses up on stilts and you can fortify roadways, but then the minor events are hard to defend by,” Sweet said. “You can't build that wall everywhere. The water will come in where the water wants to go, so it's hard to protect both against the big and the less salient effects of sea level rise and high tide flooding.”
NOAA's report predicts that in 30 years, the northern Outer Banks will have 55 to 135 days of high tide flooding, depending on greenhouse gas emissions.
“We're seeing more instances of flooding in areas like Wilmington, Beaufort, and the Outer Banks. It really is an issue,” Sweet said. “We see freshwater sources being more contaminated with salt water, and we see a transition in ecosystems.”