Jun 22, 2022 - News

Hurricane Agnes flooding devastated Richmond 50 years ago this week

A flooded James River is shown swallowing a river with the city in the background

Hurricane Agnes hit Richmond 50 years ago this week, causing the worst flood in the city's modern history. Photo coursey of The Library of Virginia

Fifty years ago this week, the remnants of Hurricane Agnes hit the city in full force, bringing 7 inches of rain in six days — and causing the worst flood in Richmond's modern history.

Driving the news: Agnes remains one of the largest June hurricanes on record, and the subsequent widespread flooding made it the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history at the time.

  • Agnes killed more than 100 people in the U.S., including 13 Virginians.
  • The statewide damage was estimated to be $126 million, around $850 million today adjusted for inflation, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
  • The flooding shut down the city's water treatment facility — and cut off water access for residents.
  • And all of downtown lost power once the power station flooded.

Be smart: June 22, 1972 was the date the James River exceeded the National Weather Service's flood level of 12 feet total for the river crest. By the next day, the river hit its historic high crest of 28.62 feet.

  • There have been five "major floods," defined by the NWS as a river level of 22 feet or more, in Richmond in the 20th century.
Highest crests of the James River
Data: NWS; Chart: Axios Visuals

Flashback: The worst flood in Richmond's history came in May 1771, when the James reached 40 feet above normal, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. But measurements were estimates then because … well, it was the year 1771.

Go deeper: See more photos of Agnes' destruction in Virginia at the Library of Virginia.


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