delware environmental institute

Al Jazeera America: Rising seas overwhelm Delaware tide gates

Down by the railroad tracks that cut through the neighborhood’s south end, water is pooled on the road even on a hot August day, remnants of a downpour the day before. The road is submerged regularly here, flooding the basements of nearby residents.

Richard King grew up in the neighborhood. “When I grew up and we got a big rain, we didn’t have to worry about it,” he said. “The only thing that flooded was right down here at the park, and that would maybe be half the day … but that would go down with the tide, and that was the end of that.”

“When there are big rains in the middle of the night, you'll see the waters. It looks almost like a wave. It will wash up and then roll right back out,” he said.

The Southbridge neighborhood is part of Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington, at the northern end of the state. With a population of 72,000 people, the city sits on the Delaware River, where Brandywine Creek meets the Christina River, 65 miles from the ocean. Yet Southbridge, although far from the beaches of Delaware’s bay and the Atlantic, is vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise. The neighborhood already faces chronic flooding, due to a combination of its low-lying location and aging infrastructure, and the flooding is likely to get worse as sea levels rise.