Blogcast w/Chris Graham: Covering hurricanes in the Valley

waynesboroAssuming the forecasts are right, Florence will be the fourth hurricane, remants thereof, that I will report on in my news career.

Waynesboro is three-and-a-half hours from the Atlantic Ocean, but we have our own unique issues with tropical systems dumping massive amounts of rain.

One, the biggest issue, that the Blue Ridge tends to sort of wring out rain from tropical storms once they get to us this far inland.

This was the case, most memorably to me, with the remnants of Isabel in 2003. Sherando, south of us in Augusta County, right up against the Blue Ridge, had in the range of 20 inches of rain from Isabel.

Before my time, but not before a lot of folks’ memories, still, the remnants of Camille in 1969 drenched Nelson County, on the other side of the Blue Ridge, with upwards of 35 inches of rain, with 27 inches falling in a three-hour period, killing more than 150 people, many never to be found.

For Waynesboro, the issue with big rain is the South River, which bisects the city south to north, and runs through the downtown business district.

There are also several high-density residential neighborhoods along the South River and tributaries, and unrelated, but maybe not, our stormwater system isn’t the best.

You can actually see water popping up through manhole covers on Main Street in advance of flood events that has nothing to do with the river itself flooding.

Exacerbating things for us right now is the drenching rains we’ve had here over the course of the past week. The downtown South River flood gauge is at 2.5 feet most days, but it’s at 3.82 feet as of this writing (Tuesday at 4:15 p.m.). Flood stage is 10.5 feet, and there’s rain in the forecast Wednesday, Thursday and into Friday that is not associated with Florence, which, yeah, yikes.

I’m worried that this one could be bad for us here. The forecast track has the storm slowing down as it comes inland from North Carolina into Southwest Virginia, then turning north, which brings the potential for Florence to further slow along our mountains.

With the ground already saturated, we could be in for a doozy of a storm, to say the least.

Column by Chris Graham


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