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Flood of 1985: Remembering the disaster 35 years later

No other weather event has topped the heavy rain and historic flooding from Election Day in 1985

How Roanoke adapted after the Flood of 1985

ROANOKE, Va. – This week, southwest and central Virginia voters visited the polls and had no weather concerns.

That was not the case 35 years ago as one of the worst weather disasters in this region’s history unfolded, the Flood of ’85.

The flood killed 10 people in the Roanoke Valley and damages were estimated at $225 million.

The culprit for the heavy rain and flooding? The remnants of Hurricane Juan and a stalled front. Some areas received almost a foot of rain from Halloween to Election Day.

Rainfall totals from the Flood of '85 (WSLS)

All of that rain caused area rivers to rise, especially the Roanoke River. To this day, it’s the highest the river has crested, at over 23 feet. For perspective, our heavy rain back in May caused the river to crest at under 16 feet.

Highest crests of the Roanoke River (WSLS)

After the historic flooding, the city of Roanoke completed a $72 million flood mitigation project and that has helped recent events not be as devastating as that tragic week in 1985.


About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.