Flood Safety: Inland Flooding - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Flood Safety: Inland Flooding

Tropical storm/hurricane fatalities Tropical storm/hurricane fatalities

Floods are always a big concern here in Appalachia. Most of our flooding comes from long duration storms that dump rain over several days or strong storms that drop a lot of rain in a hurry. We've seen our share of big floods here in the two Virginias and here at WVVA, we even devote a week of preparedness tips to it in the spring.


However, this time of year, flooding may occur from another source you may not think about-hurricanes. Of course hurricanes or tropical storms/depressions are a much bigger threat to the coast, but if they make landfall in the US, they can bring extreme amounts of rain to areas hundreds of miles away from the shore.


Typically when tracking a hurricane or tropical storm, you are more concerned with its strength. Meteorologists will assign a category (Saffir-Simpson Scale) to hurricanes, from 1 to 5 based on wind speed, pressure, storm surge, etc. However, when it comes to flooding concerns (which takes the most lives compared to wind & surge) the strength may not be an issue. We are looking for the size of the storm and the speed of its movement. The bigger and slower a storm, the more likely it will be a rainmaker and cause flooding. Here are a few examples of big flooding storms:


*A tropical storm can produce more rainfall than a Category 5 hurricane. For example, Tropical Storm Allison dropped over 30 inches of rain as it passed over Houston, TX in 2001. A slow moving or stalled tropical storm can produce considerably more rainfall in a given area than a fast moving intense hurricane. As hurricanes weaken to tropical storms and move inland, the threat of torrential rains over large areas intensify the risks of flooding for inland communities and states.


            *In 1969, by the time Hurricane Camille reached the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia it was no longer classified as a Category 5 storm. It had pummeled the Mississippi coast and surrounding areas after making landfall near the Gulf of Mexico.  The storm lingered several days over central Virginia, dropping more than 27 inches of rain on Nelson County, causing about $113 million in storm related damages and killing more than 150 people in Virginia alone.

It was Camille's flooding, rather than her wind speed or storm surge, that caused so much devastation in Virginia.  More recently, flooding far inland in Virginia from both Hurricane Isabel (2003) and Tropical Storm Gaston (2004) cost the state billions of dollars in damages.

Isabel also left 36 people dead in Virginia.  There were nine deaths associated with Gaston.  While falling trees and other circumstances caused some of these deaths, a number were caused by motorists driving into flooded roadways.  The National Weather Service warns that if you cannot see the road or its markings, do not drive through the water to use the roadway. (Virginia.gov)


*Although Hurricane Agnes was barely a hurricane at landfall in Florida, its major impact was over the Mid-Atlantic region, where Agnes combined with a non-tropical low to produce widespread heavy rainfall, including amounts approaching 8 inches (200 mm) in isolated spots of West Virginia.[23] These rains produced widespread severe flooding from Virginia northward to New York, with other flooding occurring over the western portions of the Carolinas.


Tropical Storm Beryl (1994)

Wettest tropical cyclones and their remnants in West Virginia
Highest known recorded totals











Agnes 1972

Berkeley Springs





Lee 2011

Mt. Storm





Hazel 1954






Eloise 1975

Brushy Run





Frances 2004

Berkeley Springs





Gracie 1959

Wardensville RM Farm





Connie 1955






Camille 1969






Beryl 1994

Richwood 1 SSE





Donna 1960





So, even though we don't live at the beach, hurricanes still pose a threat. Several inches of rain may fall in a 12-24 hour period from the ‘leftovers' of a hurricane or tropical storm, which may quickly rise river levels and cause severe flooding.


Be sure to listen to forecasts and projected paths of hurricanes through out the season (which lasts through November 30th). If we do ever face a situation like this, prepare as you would for any flood: Have a plan, have a safety kit, know where to go if flooding occurs in your home or business, and of course stay up to date with the latest weather reports!


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