Richmond emergency officials prepare for heavy rain this weekend

Inside Richmond's Emergency Communications Center, NBC12 got a first hand look at those...
Inside Richmond's Emergency Communications Center, NBC12 got a first hand look at those preparations.(WWBT)
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 1:35 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2022 at 8:02 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On Bainbridge Street and other locations in Richmond, public works crews are methodically moving storm drain to storm drain. It’s part of a preventative push ahead of whatever remnants of Ian show up in Central Virginia.

“This week, we really ramped up our activities. The emergency management team is meeting every morning with updates,” said Stephen Willoughby, Richmond Emergency Management Coordinator.

Inside Richmond’s Emergency Communications Center, NBC12 got a first-hand look at those preparations. At this briefing, the team talked about the storm’s forecast and what it could mean.

“We want to make sure that we stay focused on what is happening and we can share that information with our residents,” said Anthony McLean, Richmond Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator.

Here’s the good news: things may not be as bad this weekend.

At first, officials were bracing for the potential of six inches of rain. Now it’s more like three to four inches.

But that can still cause issues, especially in areas prone to flooding or clogged storm drains, which is why public works crews are out and about clearing debris.

“The importance of that is so that those drains are cleared so the water can egress off of the roadways, but there is a capacity issue there in regards to it can only handle so much water. So if we get a lot of rain at a short amount of time, it will take a little bit for it to dry off,” said Willoughby.

Richmond is unfortunately used to flash flooding, and clogged storm drains can worsen a bad situation. Who could forget I-95 getting flooded at Belvidere around this time last year?

But even without all that rain here, there can still be issues for the James River.

“We see that the track of the storm is going towards the western part of the state. With that said, we’ve got the mountains up in there. If they start to have an impact, major impact with water or rain, that water is coming downstream,” said McLean.

The area could be dealing with those issues next week.

Richmond’s ECC also says the following efforts are in progress:

  • Monitoring National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center and subscription services for the most up-to-date predictions and information
  • Monitoring James River water levels and predictions
  • Sharing safety information and encouraging citizens and staff members to have a kit, make a plan and stay informed
  • Ensuring that staff, equipment and systems are operational and ready for service as needed
  • Testing and fueling generators and backup power systems
  • Securing and bringing inside outdoor equipment and furniture
  • Encouraging residents and businesses to keep drains free of debris such as trash, sediment, cigarette butts, leaves and lawn clippings. Inlets full of garbage are at reduced capacity to take the stormwater away and can cause flooding, driving hazards and property damage even during minor rain events.
  • Marking potential high water locations with signage and preparing sandbags if needed.
  • Ensuring adequate staffing now and throughout the storm.
  • Clearing any blockages in catch basins and inlets in stormwater hotspots and any additional areas that are requested
  • Cleaning clogged storm drains in stormwater hotspots throughout the city
  • Ensuring that fleet vehicles are inventoried, fueled and located where they may be needed

Ahead of the rain, you can call 311 to report any storm drain issues within the city.