NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Norfolk has the highest rate of sea level rise on the East Coast, according to a new report out of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

“Sea level in Norfolk is rising by 5.38 millimeters per year,” said VIMS director of news and media service Davis Malmquist.

Malmquist said the report found tides are rising quicker than normal.

“It’s like climate change has its foot on the gas pedal of sea level rise,” Malmquist said. “It’s accelerating.”

That means Norfolk’s sea level could be a foot-and-a half higher by 2050.

Tom Allen, an Old Dominion University professor, said you see it when it floods more.

“We see in the range of days, maybe a few weeks a year with tidal flooding without a storm,” Allen said. “What’s called a king tide, but with sea level rise, as this report show, it’s increasing. Those nuisances will become chronic and chronic will become debilitating.”

Allen said it also puts our military and economy at risk.

“National security is a concern here with sea level rise,” Allen said. “The economy and the future of generations will really depend on our response to this (existential) threat to sea level rise in Hampton Roads,” he said.

Malmquist said effective planning would mitigate its effects.

“Make your voice heard if you are concerned about this,” Malmquist said. “Realize we really do need to start planning now if we want to have an effective response to something that may seem like it’s decades out in the future.”

Malmquist said you can plan now to protect your properties, such as adding a storm wall.

He said city leadership should do the same by planning for the future on what to protect and implement to mitigate sea level rise.