James River more than 12 feet deep Friday

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A flood warning remains in effect for parts of the James River. It's expected to crest in Richmond at noon Saturday at about 15 feet -- that's about three feet over flood stage. That's considered moderate flooding.

Those fast-moving rapids may entice some thrill seekers. But even if you know what you're doing firefighters want to think through any plans you have at the river.

Even though David Fary can handle himself in the water, he knows today the James could do more than scratch up his kayak.

"There's very limited chance for rescue when the water gets to that level," said David.

This is the fourth year David's guided boaters through the urban whitewaters that are today higher than 12 feet.

Melissa Correa: "So tomorrow you're expecting water levels to rise just because the water's making its way through?"
David Fary: "The water that we got the last few days out west is hitting Richmond now."

Unless you have a permit will be fined if you make your way into the raging rapids.

Nearly 90 people have active permits to access the James when water levels are 9 feet or higher. But in order to get those permits, you need to prove you know what you're doing.

And even then, firefighter Shawn Jones says you're still not safe. About two years ago, a woman died after her kayak went vertical.

"But it's true. Even the most experienced people sometimes become victims also," he said.

Rescue teams are monitoring entry points-- making sure they can access the water if a rescue is needed.

"The water level is going to be high! So it's a challenge to not only the victim, but also a challenge to us, the rescuer. We don't want to become that victim either," Shawn Jones said.

Anytime the James is above five-feet you need to wear a Coast Guard approved life vest. When it's nine feet or higher, you need a permit to go into the water. You will be fined if caught without one.

If you are interested in a permit to access the James during high water levels you need to call the Richmond Fire Department at 646-4229. Or visit the fire station at 24th and Broad in Church Hill.

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