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Richmond flooding: James River to crest Friday afternoon

Posted at 7:39 AM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 13:04:33-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- For the first time since 1999, the City of Richmond has closed its floodwall doors as the James River continues to rise.

A forecast from the National Weather Service says the James River is expected to crest at just under 18 feet at one of Richmond's gauges on Friday.

On Friday morning, at 14 feet, the river flooded parts of the Virginia Capital Trail at Rocketts Landing in Richmond.

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People gathered Friday morning to take photos of the high water -- flooding that surprised even long-time residents like Brian Lee.

"It’s just amazing that nature can change so quickly," said Lee, as he looked out into the James. "And I know the power of water -- and it’s really high. So I just wanted to stop and get a peak since it’s been a while since I’ve seen it like this."

That power, Lt. Shaun Whiteley with the Swift Water Rescue Team, could sometimes be more than their equipment could handle.

"Every foot arise the river becomes a different river," said Whiteley. "You look behind me -- that thing is moving so fast there’s logs coming down, debris coming down. So a lot of times the hazards we can’t see em' or predict them."

Whiteley and the Swift Water Rescue Team were out preparing Friday, in case of a water rescue call. Something he said could be more difficult when the river level is up.

"We're out kind of reconning where we would go for certain types of instances, trying to see what the river looks like at our put-ins, different ways we're going to attack the problem," Whiteley said. "We don’t have a shut off period no matter what the river is to crest at we’re going to go out if we’re needed."

Whiteley said the team was prepared in case of a service call -- but they urged people to be responsible.

"It’s not a swimming pool. This is moving water," Whiteley said. "Always understand the risks and also understand there’s a crew of people that have to come get them should something happen."