The Flood We Never Knew

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The Flood We Never Knew

Morgan Tobey

The worst flooding in Roanoke’s history happened 33 years ago in November. In 1985 there was an deadly, devastating, and catastrophic flood otherwise known as the Election Day Flood in Virginia but it is know in West Virginia as the Killer Flood of 1985. The event occurred after Hurricane Juan, a tropical cyclone came across the region. Critical floods hit the western parts of Virginia, one of them being Roanoke.

Hurricane Juan was a large and unpredictable tropical cyclone that curved twice near the Louisiana coast, creating extensive flooding. The hurricane expanded over the Gulf of Mexico in the Atlantic then moved to Florida and up the coast from there towards Virginia and Maryland.

High amounts of rain caused many rivers to flood way above their banks across Virginia, becoming amid the top three highest on record along several rivers in the state. The city of Roanoke recorded 6.61 in in a 24‑hour period, the highest 24‑hour total on record for the city since records started  in 1912.  A total, 4.25 in fell in roughly three hours.

In Roanoke, the Roanoke River rose 18.57 ft in ten hours to a peak of 23.35 ft  considered a 1 in 200 year event. In the city, many residents had to be rescued after they were trapped, and three people drowned by driving into flooded waters. This flood was considered the worst flood on record in the city and Roanoke sustained $225 million in damage, with 3,100 damaged homes and businesses. There was also flooding in Richmond after the James River crested at the second-highest level on record. Throughout Virginia, damage was approximately $753 million, making it the state’s costliest flood at the time, and there were devastated with 22 deaths.

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