Wouldn’t it be so easy to just flip a switch, press a button, or like we’ve seen in the movies, to get to the fire hose, just break the glass!
It would certainly make coping with a natural disaster a lot easier today. There is seemingly so much a person has to know, and learn in order to protect one’s family and loved ones.
But let’s look a bit more closely at one event that has plagued Virginia and particularly, Richmond since pre-colonial times. The flooding of the James River and it’s tributaries has been an ongoing problem for Virginians for years.
Virginia being a coastal, and mid-Atlantic state is in a vulnerable position, not only for rain storms, but heavy winds and flooding. This is especially true of the Tidewater and coastal area of the state, that is, until Hurricane Camille paid us a visit in 1969.
A meteorologist can give a more detailed picture of what happens, but it would be safe to say that with the Blue Ridge Mountains forming a natural northwestern wall, they stop fronts coming in from the Atlantic from going on over the range.
The bowl-shaped terrain of the central-piedmont area of the state leading on down to the Tidewater area makes it easy to see why Richmond is prone to floods. When the city gets rains, unless there are winds pushing the storm out and to the north, we get a flooding.
People who have lived in the metro-Richmond area for a number of years will certainly remember Hurricane Camille in 1969. It is only the second of three category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States in the 20th. century.
Camille dumped 12-20 plus inches of rain on the state’s already soaked land for a period of 3-5 hours on the 19th. of August that year. Some parts of the state received 27 inches of rain in 3 hours. The flooding the rains caused was record-breaking and devastating.
This storm was an incentive for the building of the great river locks in Richmond. In the event of major storms like Camille, the locks can be closed, protecting the low lying areas of the city from major flood damage.
It is also because of Camille’s aftermath that we now have better emergency management and a much better response time for preparedness in case of imminent flooding, plus access to emergency funds for cleanup.
Camille’s devastation led to the U.S. Congress passing the Disaster Relief Act of 1969, providing emergency funds for those suffering losses because of a natural disaster. Because of Camille, and several more bad tropical storms, President Jimmy Carter signed the act in 1972 that formed FEMA.
With local, state and federal resources, we are better able to prepare for and get through natural disasters. It is up to us as individuals to do our part in preparing ourselves and our families to meet those events.