Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Flooding a Year Round Hazard

April showers bring May flowers is the wisdom we are told but as we transition into spring and summer, shedding winter gear for outdoor activities and longer days, hazards also change.  No longer will our concerns be icy roads and snow accumulation, but rather our focus shifts to flooding.  Flooding can occur year round, but in the spring the risk is higher.  This is not only due to April showers, but flooding also occurs as a result of ice and snow melting at higher elevations or mountainous areas of the river.  Did you know that the James River is 348 miles long and forms in the Appalachian Mountains?  River flooding that occurs in Richmond may not be a direct result of an impact to the area, and could originate from other areas of Virginia.  This type of river flooding is referred to as overland flooding.  
Overland flooding on Riverside Drive January 2010

In addition to overland flooding, flash flooding can occur as a result of intense rainfall that occurs over a short period of time in a low lying area.  In addition to river flooding, localized flooding can occur in smaller areas as a result of storm drain blockage and development.  New development often contributes to flash flooding as new construction changes the natural drainage in an area. 

Hurricanes and tropical storms can leave an area devastated by floods.  Hurricane season for Virginia begins on June 1st and continues to November 1st of every year. 

It is important during any type of flood event to never drive through flooded roadways.  The depth of the water and the condition of the road underneath may not be noticeable.  Only six inches of water can cause most passenger cars to lose control or stall and a foot of water can float most vehicles.  Trucks and sport utility vehicles are not exceptions to this as two feet of water can carry them away.  After the storm has passed you may be tempted to walk through flood waters, but this is often dangerous as these waters can become contaminated with gasoline or raw sewage and be host to harmful debris.