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Rising sea levels torment Norfolk, Va., and coastal U.S.

NORFOLK, Va. — One block from the beach on the narrow Willoughby Spit, Bob Parsons was watching the weather news on TV in November 2009 when brackish water suddenly oozed up through the wood floors of his home and poured in from the front and back doors.

He and his wife, Carole, lugged filing cabinets and a restored wingback chair upstairs but didn’t have time to move the car, parked on the street-turned-waterway, The car was totaled, and the house needed thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs. Since that nor’easter, known as Nor’Ida, two others have pummeled their 1953 home, rendering it a “severe repetitive loss property.”

H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
Bob Parsons has recorded high water levels from storms on his garage door. He says more
So next year, a crew will jack it up 5 feet. Parsons will receive federal funds to cover at least 75% of the cost, likely to top $100,000. “It might exceed the value of my house,” says the retired carpenter, adding it might have made more sense for the government to pay him to leave.

Others aren’t as lucky. They can’t afford to move or rebuild, and they don’t qualify for a subsidized lift because their home’s flood damage was less than half its worth. “I have a mortgage on the house, and I ethically can’t sell it,” says Jennifer Priest, a mom of three whose modest rambler one block from the Lafayette River has flooded often enough that she’s now on a first-name basis with her insurance adjuster.



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