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Richmond emergency crews prepare ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa: 'We'll be there'

Richmond emergency crews prepare ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa: 'We'll be there'
Posted at 4:11 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 07:35:43-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Tropical Storm Elsa approaches Virginia, government agencies and first responders are preparing for whatever it may bring to our region.

One of these agencies is the Richmond Fire Department's water rescue team (Water Rescue 2).

For one of the team leads, Lt. Kevin Knight, he said two things come to mind when storms like Elsa are on the horizon.

"One, we have this amazing feature in Richmond that is the James River. When there's storms, especially out west, the river level rises. And so we have specific things to deal with there," said Knight. "But also, when heavy rains hit Richmond, we have to deal with flooded streets and roadways. And that's usually our busiest time, a lot of calls all at once, or going from place to place. People are stuck in water, vehicles are stuck in water. So, we need to prepare for that ahead of time."

Knight said while the team is always ready to respond to a call, part of their storm preparations involves going over what may happen to their normal response routes during bad weather.

"When streets are flooded, sometimes the route has to change. So we kind of go over different routes that we need to take to flood-prone areas," said Knight, who added that similar changes occur on the river. "Routes that are available at seven feet aren't available at 15 feet or even 18 feet."

Knight said the top four spots in the city they respond to are Magnolia St. & Rady St., Mosby St. & Littlepage St., W. 20th St. & Bainbridge St., and Maury St. & Richmond Highway.

"There's a big but -- it seems like there's more and more areas that are experiencing flooding during heavy rains," added Knight. "I'm not sure exactly what that's attributed to. But we've been to places this past year where you didn't we didn't go before."

Knight said that most people they rescue from flooded roads often say they had no idea that water was so deep or dangerous and say they were just trying to get somewhere quickly.

"Unfortunately, this desire to get somewhere quickly, this desire to be not not impeded from their regular route supersedes the possible danger that could be there. So the risk does not outweigh the reward to travel through floodwater," said Knight. "The biggest advice that I would give is do not drive through, walk through, run through, swim through, bike through -- anything through -- areas that are flooded."

Along with potentially ruining your car, Knight says objects like manhole covers can disappear and become hazards you can't see.

"Even if it looks like it's really shallow. If it looks like it's really calm. Often there can be death traps underneath," Knight said.

If you do find yourself trapped, Knight says to find the highest ground you can and call for help.

"We'll be there. We get there fast," Knight said.