Show Me the Value! Virginia Beach’s Flood Model Visualization and Exposure Tool

C.J. Bodnar, PE, Stormwater Engineering Center Technical Services Program Manager, City of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works

Shelly Frie, PE, ENV SP, Project Manager, Jacobs Engineering

The City of Virginia Beach is faced with the challenge of providing flood control and stormwater drainage services while complying with stormwater management regulations, surface water quality requirements, and climate stressors that are increasing the intensity and frequency of large storms and sea level rise. These conditions have led to increased occurrences of moderate to severe roadway, structural, and residential flooding. The flooding from Hurricane Matthew was a key driver in City voters passing a bond referendum in November 2021 to authorize $567.5 million in debt to finance the design and construction of various flood mitigation projects aimed at improving the level of flood protection. The City embarked upon a long-term Flood Protection Program (FPP) to mitigate flooding by implementing measures to help safeguard Virginia Beach homes, structures, and roadways. City and Jacobs staff collaborated in developing a new interactive tool, called the Flood Model Visualization and Exposure Tool (Flood Exposure Tool) to empower residents with visual and graphic insights into potential flood risks before and after the implementation of City FPP capital projects. By providing this tool, the City aims to foster a better understanding of the necessity and value of the projects. The tool can be accessed at This interactive application allows the user to select different flood scenarios and display Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping developed from the City’s flood model results. Flood exposure data developed from the model results is also displayed for the selected scenario. The tool includes the following features: 1) buttons for user selection of climate scenarios that are then displayed on the map; 2) summary metrics on flood exposure related to the selected scenario; 3) location of FPP projects and their flood mitigation benefits; and 4) access to a photorealistic 3D visual graphic for select locations. Currently there are two FPP projects (Eastern Shore Drive Phase I and Seatack Neighborhood Drainage Improvements) in the tool at this time but as more projects reach final design, additional project implementation model results will be added to the tool. The Flood Exposure Tool helps cultivate a high level of knowledge and awareness among City residents about the flood exposure risk for various climate scenarios and the future benefits of FPP projects.

Author Bio

Charles J. (C.J.) Bodnar, PE is a registered Virginia Professional Engineer and is the Stormwater Technical Services Program Manager for the City of Virginia Beach, Department of Public Works Stormwater Engineering Center. He graduated in 1990 from the Virginia Military Institute with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. C.J. worked as a land development consultant for over 20 years prior to joining the City of Virginia Beach in 2015. Shelly Frie, PE, is a registered professional engineer with a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is a senior project manager at Jacobs Engineering in their Virginia Beach office. Shelly has over 36 years of experience in stormwater management planning, design, permit compliance, and program development. She is a member of the Virginia Lakes and Watersheds Association Board of Directors.