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Richmond's Hurricane Memory Lane: Hurricane Agnes, June 1972

Hurricane Joaquin could bring trouble for Richmond. But will it be as bad as one of the city's worst floods?

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It’s still uncertain where moisture-packed Hurricane Joaquin might go and how much rain it will dump. The Richmond area could get 5 to 8 inches, according to some models.

For the grandmother of all rain events, consider Hurricane Agnes in June 1972. As much as 16 inches of rain fell during a 36-hour period in the state. The badly swollen James River flooded much of downtown, Manchester, Shockoe Slip and the Bottom. The flood peaked at 36.5 feet, the highest level since 1771.

Familiar buildings could be seen only as mere roofs. Natural gas, electricity and sewage services were off for days. Part of the Huguenot Bridge collapsed. Of 16 people killed, four were in Richmond.

Could it happen again? A $143 million floodwall stretching 3.28 miles now protects much of downtown. But it proved of little use in 2004, when Tropical Storm Gaston sent torrents of water pouring down Shockoe Valley where the flood wall blocked it and drainage was an issue.

The Library of Virginia has more photos of the devastation from Hurricane Agnes over on Flickr.
I-95 underwater on Richmond's South Side. - THE LIBRARY OF VIRGINIA
  • The Library of Virginia
  • I-95 underwater on Richmond's South Side.
The 14th Street Bridge underwater. The famous Southern States silos are barely visible to the left. Style Weekly's offices are in the building with the domed roof in the middle of the photo. - THE LIBRARY OF VIRGINIA
  • The Library of Virginia
  • The 14th Street Bridge underwater. The famous Southern States silos are barely visible to the left. Style Weekly's offices are in the building with the domed roof in the middle of the photo.
More flooded rooftops in Manchester. - THE LIBRARY OF VIRGINIA
  • The Library of Virginia
  • More flooded rooftops in Manchester.
Flooding in Shockoe Bottom. This area was also flooded during Hurricane Gaston in 2004. The Bottom's Up Pizza Building is visible in the bottom left corner. - THE LIBRARY OF VIRGINIA
  • The Library of Virginia
  • Flooding in Shockoe Bottom. This area was also flooded during Hurricane Gaston in 2004. The Bottom's Up Pizza Building is visible in the bottom left corner.

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