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Richmond officials: 'Unprecedented' rain led to flooding

Harrison and Grace flooding
Posted at 5:36 PM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-18 12:32:13-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- City officials are blaming the flooding at Harrison and Grace Streets Thursday on an unprecedented rainstorm that centered right over that part of the city.

A viewer sent CBS6 a video of the flooding that shows the drain at an intersection right outside the Village Cafe was overwhelmed and water stopped going down at some point.

Several employees with the city's Departments of Public Utilities and Public Works said there was no indication that debris was clogging the storm drain at that intersection.

Instead, they said the city's stormwater system is not designed to handle that much run in such a short amount of time.

City officials said that there was nothing that could be done in the short term to prevent something like this from happening again.

"If this intensity happens tomorrow the same event is going to happen again until we make changes in that particular watershed that it's in," Bob Steidel, Deputy CAO for Operations for the City of Richmond, said.

The city said it spent $88 million over the past 10 years on its stormwater system and they are working to improve their infrastructure as best they can with the funding they get.

They added that there are opportunities for property owners to make green infrastructure improvements in the urban core.

Interstate 95 in Richmond also flooded on Thursday. All four lanes of traffic had to be shut down around 4 p.m.

VDOT spokesperson Kyle Gibson said debris from a car was logged in the mouth of a drain, so the water was not able to leave the road.

"Crews were able to arrive on the scene and get rid of the debris, take care of the blockage in the drain, after that happened almost immediately the water started to recede and almost immediately lanes were able to open back up after that," Gibson said.

Gibson said this should serve as a reminder to drivers that they need to secure their loads so drains do not get blocked in the future.

He said VDOT checks interstate drains weekly.