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Devastating 1985 Roanoke flood remembered in new City Market exhibit

Roanoke Stormwater and History Museum of Western Virginia installed signs Friday

ROANOKE, Va. – It has been nearly 35 years since Roanoke’s most devastating natural disaster when severe flooding from the Roanoke River killed ten people and left behind millions of dollars in damage.

The flood happened on November 4, 1985, but a new exhibit at City Market aims to teach those who weren’t alive than about the severity of the storm.

Five signs were installed on Market Square Friday morning, showing pictures of the devastation and facts about the flood. The installation is a joint effort of Roanoke Stormwater and the History Museum of Western Virginia.

“It’s just mind-boggling to see how high the water got...to see whole areas just underwater,” said museum curator Ashley Webb.

Several people, including Barbara Dunbar, stopped to read the signs. Dunbar said she clearly remembers her experience living through the flood of ’85.

“My co-worker took me home, and the bridge that we had to go over, the water was right up to the bridge,” said Dunbar. “Thank God this didn’t happen again. It’s never happened at this scale in Roanoke since, and I’m so thankful that it hasn’t.”

The display on City Market is accompanied by a photography exhibit at the history museum, which opens on Sept. 22.

“Hopefully the people who were not alive or in the Roanoke area will see what an impact the flood had,” said Webb.

The exhibit will run through the 35th anniversary of the flood.


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