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Chesapeake Bay News


Question of the Week: The effect of storms on the Bay's health

Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week we take a question submitted through the Chesapeake Bay Program website and answer it here for all to read.

This week’s question is one a lot of people have been asking in recent days: With the nor’easter from Hurricane Ida blowing through the region, high winds, flooding and stormwater are on everyone’s minds. So what effect does a storm like this November nor’easter have on the Chesapeake Bay?

The amount of rain that falls on the Bay watershed has a direct effect on river flow, which is the volume of fresh water that flows into the Chesapeake from its tributaries. Typically, fresh water makes up about half of the Bay’s entire volume. When large amounts of rain fall in the region, such as during this nor’easter, it can tip the balance of fresh and salty water in the Bay.

A major issue associated with more rainfall is an increase in stormwater runoff, which carries dirt, trash, nutrients and other pollutants from our roads, lawns and parking lots into the Bay and its local waterways. Once in the water, this pollution can fuel the growth of algae blooms and harm underwater life, including crabs, oysters and bay grasses.

We’re already seeing the effects of this storm in Virginia, where officials have implemented a temporary ban on shellfish harvesting. The fear is that clams, oysters and scallops could become contaminated due to human and animal waste being washed into the Bay from tidal flooding.

High tides and flooding are certainly of concern to those who live by the Bay’s shores, but large storms like this have an effect on every stream, creek and river throughout the region. You can do your part to minimize the impact of storms and eliminate as much pollution as possible by picking up litter on the ground and covering bare spots in your yard to reduce erosion.

For more information about how weather affects the Bay and its watershed, check out our weather page.

Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Please send it to us through our web comment form. Your question might be chosen for our next BayBlog Question of the Week!

Keywords: questions, weather


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