How Petersburg prepares for potential Ophelia flooding

Posted at 3:40 PM, Sep 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-22 16:53:09-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- As Tropical Storm Ophelia moved closer to Virginia on Friday, city crews and business owners in Petersburg, Virginia, worked to prepare for the heavy rain the storm might bring.

"If we get one inch of rain, hopefully in an hour and a half, I’ll be ok," Bank Street business owner Matt Carden said. "But when I have trouble is when we have an inch of rain in 30 minutes.”

Having experienced flooding on Bank Street before. Carden has a plan in place.

"All my books will be in here and my battery charger and floor jacks and stuff like that," he said about a safe container he planned to put in his truck. "[Then] I’ll lift the truck up."

Because East Bank Street is well known for flooding, Petersburg Public Works responded Friday when a business owner reported a clogged drainage pipe.

Cleaning out pipes and storm drains in flood-prone areas was a top priority this week for city work crews.

“It's crucial to keep these streets from flooding," Petersburg Public Works Director Jerry Byerly said. "We’ve checked all the vehicles that will be used this weekend."

He said the city had barricades at the ready in case the roads became impassible.

"We’re going to be out with barricades in places, that historically flood, pre-positioning some barricades so we can close roads if need be," he said. "If we get a heavy downpour, couple inches an hour, there probably will be some road closed."

Petersburg is currently using a $2 million grant to identify flood-prone areas and to find solutions for stormwater management while dealing with a 100-year-old infrastructure that has to be upgraded and expanded.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngking declared a state of emergency on Friday and the intensifying weather system has forced schools to close early and canceled weekend events. Ophelia has maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, and storm surges between 3 and 5 feet are forecast for parts of North Carolina and Virginia. Rainfall up to 7 inches is also expected in some areas.

Petersburg leaders urged neighbors to stay home during the height of the storm.

"The City team is prepared to address storm and flooding issues tonight and on Saturday," City Manager March Altman said. “Our main concern is to keep Petersburg citizens safe and secure during emergency situations."

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