At the foot of the Chesapeake Bay in southeast Virginia lies a Naval shipyard older than the nation itself. One of the country’s first warships was built here in 1799. So was the first battleship, and decades later the first aircraft carrier.
Over a quarter millennium, Norfolk Naval Shipyard has been blockaded and burnt to the ground by the British, the Union and the Confederates, only to be rebuilt again and again to evolve into a hub of Naval power.
Rising seas will likely engulf the shipyard by century’s end, but the reckoning for Norfolk and nearby military installations could come much sooner.
“They’re going to disappear” unless the Pentagon acts quickly to protect them, said Ray Mabus, Navy secretary under President Barack Obama.
The most immediate worry is a direct hit from a major storm. “It would have the potential for serious, if not catastrophic damage, and it would certainly put the shipyard out of business for some amount of time,” Mabus said. “That has implications not just for the shipyard, but for us, for the Navy.”