The Historic Triangle has been pelted with rainstorms over the past week, saturating the ground and prompting the National Weather Service to issue flash flood watches for most of Hampton Roads.
For residents worried about what to do in a flood, James City County has some advice.
“Low-lying areas in the county are more susceptible to flooding and people in those areas should be aware,” said Darryl Cook, assistant director of stormwater resource protection for James City County.
Some areas susceptible to flooding include Powhatan Creek, Neck-O-Land Road, Jamestown Road and Chickahominy Haven. Residents in those areas may experience flooding during light storms as well, because the drainage systems can become overwhelmed by runoff.
Cook suggests residents make sure ditches and drainage systems near their homes are clear of debris such as trash or leaves so water can enter the system.
James City County’s drainage systems are designed to handle disasters up to a “10-year storm.” Some rainstorms, like hurricanes, are classified by how often they occur. The intensity and volume of a 10-year storm is seen every 10 years on average.
Anything beyond that and the system can overflow.
When a drainage system overflows, there can be damage to homes, lawns, vehicles and other items.
“It’s not just property damage, though. It’s personal safety,” Cook said.
Staying informed, staying safe
But it isn’t just residents in low-lying areas who should be prepared, said Sara Ruch, emergency manager for the county.
“In a natural disaster, it could be anybody in danger,” Ruch said. “It’s important that people make a plan, get a kit and stay informed.”
The National Weather Service in Wakefield will issue flood alerts based on three levels, Ruch said.
The lowest level of alert is a flood advisory, which is issued when a weather event might become a nuisance but not necessarily be hazardous. When a flood advisory is issued, residents should remain informed with updates from the National Weather Service or James City County’s “JCC Alert” app in case the danger increases, Ruch said.
A flood watch means that conditions are favorable for flooding to occur, not that it is happening. Ruch recommends avoiding unnecessary travel, or arriving at a destination early in case flooding does occur.
A flood warning is issued when flooding is imminent or already occurring. In those instances, residents should seek shelter in an elevated location that won’t be inundated by floodwaters, Ruch said.
In addition, Ruch stressed that motorists should avoid driving into water covering roadways because just 1 foot of moving water can sweep a vehicle away.
“There’s the saying ‘Turn around, don’t drown,’ that is good advice to go by,” Ruch said. “You don’t know which roads will be impacted by the weather or even if a road is still there. Water can obscure dangers that could result in serious safety issues.”
Preparing for disaster
If there is a disaster, communication will be key, Ruch said. To help stay in touch with friends and families during such incidents, she suggests residents take the most important numbers in their phones and write them on paper in case the power goes out.
Having an emergency kit with at least three days of non-perishable foods, blankets, flashlights, batteries and a radio should help weather the storm, Ruch said. Those who live near the elderly or those with mobility problems should check on them before and after the storm.
It’s unlikely that this week’s rain will cause a disaster, Cook said, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared for one just in case.
“You never know when a storm might turn dangerous and flooding might impact your safety,” he said.