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Richmond closes floodwall; James River to crest Friday

Posted at 12:38 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 19:29:39-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The City of Richmond closed the floodwall in Shockoe Bottom as heavy rain to the west is expected to cause the James River to crest at 18.5 feet on Friday.

"The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (DPU) will activate the Dock Street and Brander Street flood walls as a cautionary measure in response to the heavy rainfall in the western parts of the James River Basin area," a DPU spokesperson wrote in an email.

The Dock Street gate closed at noon Thursday and will re-open when water levels recede to a safe level, according to the city. The Brander Street gate was closed Thursday evening.

The floodwall hasn't been closed due to the threat of flooding since 1999, according to the Department of Public Utilities.

At 19 feet, the river would be in a moderate flood stage, seven feet above minor flood stage and just three feet away from major flood stage.

The forecasted water levels in the city are also the highest recorded in several decades.

Justin Doyle, a community conservation manager at James River Association, applauded the city for acting quickly ahead of the expected flooding.

"It’s great to see the City of Richmond is already taking action to ensure their residents are safe. Kudos to the City of Richmond and everybody should continue pay attention to the two gauges here in the city: the Richmond Westham gauge and the Richmond Locks gauge," Doyle said.

Due to projected river levels, the James River Park System will close the Pony Pasture lot, Huguenot Flat Water lot, and portions of Belle Isle and the Pipeline Trail.

"This is going to be a significant high water event and something that we need to pay close attention to," Doyle warned. "We know that some of our riverside parks and trails will be impacted by the high water event."

Ben Moore, operator of the Brown's Island boat rental company Waterfront, urged Richmonders to observe the historic water levels from a safe distance.

"I completely agree with the draw of seeing that type of force moving right through the middle of the city -- it’s going to be beautiful. But, high ground is going to be important," Moore explained. "Don't go down to the 42nd Street rocks thinking you can get out and see the river there."

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can submit a news tip here.