Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Episode 442 (10-15-18): New River High Water History at Radford, Va.

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (5:11)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

Except as otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-12-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 15, 2018.

SOUND - ~ 13 sec

Those were sounds of rainfall, an overflowing storm sewer, and a stream cascading into the New River at Radford, Va., on October 11, 2018, as that river was rising due to heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Michael and an approaching cold front.  Those weather systems resulted in flooding in rivers and streams across the southern half of Virginia.  The arrival of that rainfall and high water made this a good week to revisit a 2011 episode on the High Water Mark program coordinated by the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Have a listen for about two minutes to part of the October 18, 2011, ceremony unveiling the high water mark sign for the New River at Radford.  The comments are by Richard Harshberger, vice-mayor of the City of Radford; Anthony Phillips, who donated the Radford high-water marker; Dave Wert, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service’s Blacksburg Forecast Office; and Peter Corrigan, hydrologist at the Blacksburg office.

VOICES - ~ 1 min/53 sec.

[Richard Harshberger:] “Good morning. On behalf of the City of Radford, I’m honored and pleased to receive the second high-water-mark sign in the Commonwealth.”

[Anthony Phillips:] “The actual hurricane that produced these record floods developed down in the Caribbean on August 5th, 1940..... After it made landfall, it really slowed down, and actually spent three days over the southern Appalachians.  And it started raining here in Virginia on August 13, and of course this flood occurred on August 14.  And it spent three or four days over land, just producing copious amounts of rainfall.  The water that produced this record rainfall actually occurred over Floyd in the Little River, which runs into the New upstream...they got 17 inches in two days in Floyd County.”

[Dave Wert:] “It’s flooding, and flash flooding specifically, that produces overwhelmingly the most number of deaths annually across the nation.... Just a simple Category 1 hurricane coming in on the border of Georgia and South Carolina—a lot of people think that Category 1, Category 2, Category 3, the stronger the storm, the more the potential impact.  That’s not the case, especially when it comes to a flash flood or flooding situation.”

[Peter Corrigan:] “But, you know, one thing that we’ve noticed in the past five years, 10 years, in increase in massive flooding.  Pennsylvania, Nashville, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia—floods that have greatly eclipsed past records.  So, you know, we’re looking at, this is the highest we’ve ever achieved [at Radford] but there’s no reason it can’t be exceeded, even by significant amounts. Iowa broke a record by 10 feet just recently as 2008, a river that had 100 years of records.  So, this is the highest it’s reached, but it’s not to say it couldn’t reach higher.  And we hope not.”

As you heard, the record high level for the New River at Radford was produced by rainfall from an August 1940, category 1 hurricane that came ashore along the Georgia-South Carolina border.  That hurricane’s rainfall raised the river level to almost 36 feet, or 22 feet above flood stage.  That compares to the river’s October 12, 2018, crest at about 23 feet, or 9 feet above flood stage, following the impacts of Hurricane Michael.

The Radford high-water marker is one of three so far in Virginia, joining ones in Montgomery County and in the City of Franklin.  About 130 markers are in place nationwide.  Silently recalling dramatic histories, the signs are all intended to raise citizens’ awareness of an area’s flooding history and encourage their preparedness for storms and floods yet to come.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 86, 10-31-11.

The New River sounds in this episode were recorded by Virginia Water Radio on October 11, 2018, in and around Bisset Park in Radford, Virginia.

The comments in this episode were recorded by Virginia Water Radio at the October 18, 2011, Radford High Water Mark Sign Unveiling and Dedication, held in Bisset Park in Radford.  A 20-minute recording of the entire ceremony is available at https://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/virginia_water_radio/mp3_archive/RadfordDedicationOct182011.MP3.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.   More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at http://www.bencosgrove.com.

Color-coded map of one-day flood predictions at Virginia river gages as of 1:37 p.m. EDT on October 12, 2018. Map from the National Weather Service/Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, accessed online at https://water.weather.gov/ahps/region_forecast.php?state=va#.
New River at Radford, approximately 2 p.m. EDT on October 11, 2018, when the river stage was about 11 feet.
Overflowing storm sewer cover at the entrance of Bisset Park in Radford, Va., October 11, 2018, at approximately 2 p.m. EDT.
New River in the distance as viewed from the location of the high water mark sign in Bisset Park at Radford, Va., October 11, 2018.
The Radford/New River high water mark sign in Bisset Park in Radford, Va., being unveiled on October 18, 2011, by Anthony Phillips (center right), who donated the sign, and Dave Wert (center left), meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service’s Blacksburg Forecast Office.
Detail of the high-water mark sign at Radford.


The following was taken from the National Weather Service (NWS)/Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services, “High Water Signs,” online at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/water/high_water/intro.shtml, as of 10-11-18.

“Severe flooding is part of the history of many communities in the southeast United States.  Despite this reality, many residents are not fully aware of the flood potential in their area.

“To help raise awareness of flood risk, NWS began a project in 2006 to install High Water Mark signs in prominent locations within communities that have experienced severe flooding.  Locations are selected based more on visibility than location of the flood. For example, a sign might be placed on the wall of a building downtown rather than near a rarely visited riverbank.

“Service Hydrologists from local NWS offices coordinate with emergency management and other local officials to select the best locations for the signs.  The U.S. Geological Survey is involved as well, providing historical data and aiding with the surveying of high water mark signs in their districts.

“The first sign was unveiled in Rome, Ga., on March 21, 2007, during Flood Safety Awareness Week.  Rome’s record flood occurred on April 1, 1886, when the Oostanaula River rose to a stage of 40.3 feet, inundating some parts of downtown Rome with more than 20 feet of water.  The downtown area was so severely damaged that the city opted to fill in much of it, so that street level of present-day downtown Rome is what used to be the second floor.  Even so, the high water mark was more than four feet above the ground.  The sign was installed on the side of the Rome Area History Museum building.”


City of Radford, Va., “City Government,” online at https://www.radfordva.gov/207/City-Government. [Richard Harshberger still listed as vice-mayor on 10/11/18.]

Dana Hedgpeth, Justin Jouvenal, and Lynh Bui, Five dead, one missing and half a million people are without power after Michael ravages Virginia, Washington Post, 10/12/18, 12:06 p.m. EDT.

National Weather Service/Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, flood forecast for Virginia and region, accessed online at https://water.weather.gov/ahps/region_forecast.php?state=va#.

National Weather Service/Blacksburg, Va., Forecast Office, online at https://www.weather.gov/rnk/. Staff listing is online at https://www.weather.gov/rnk/StaffListing.

National Weather Service (NWS)/Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services, “High Water Mark Information Toolbox,” online at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/water/high_water/.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “USGS Current Water Data for Virginia,” online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/rt. Gage 03171000-New River at Radford, Va., online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?03171000.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the following subject categories: “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water”; and “Weather/Natural Disasters.”

Following are links to other episodes on flooding in Virginia.
Episode 192, 12/16/13 – on the Rockfish River in Nelson County.
Episode 272, 6/29/15 – on flooding in Madison County in 1995.
Episode 328, 8/8/16 – on flash flooding generally.

Following are links to some other episodes on the New River.
Episode 109, 5/7/12 – “Banks of New River,” by Whitetop Mountain Band.
Episode 179, 9/16/13 – Twenty-two Miles along the New River Trail.
Episode 264, 5/4/15 – A Bird Day on the New River.
Episode 381, 8/14/17 – Midnight at the Water.


2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decision, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
2.6 – identification of common storms and other weather phenomena.
4.6 – weather conditions, phenomena, and measurements.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Grades K-6 Matter Theme
6.6 – Properties of air (including pressure, temperature, and humidity) and structure/dynamics of earth’s atmosphere, including weather topics.

Earth Science Course
ES.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.
ES.11 – origin, evolution, and dynamics of the atmosphere, including human influences on climate.
ES.12 – weather and climate.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.8 – government at the local level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course

WG.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.18 – cooperation among political jurisdictions to solve problems and settle disputes.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250 (1-26-15) – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255 (3-2-15) – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282 (9-21-15) – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309 (3-28-16) – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403 (1-15-18) – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404 (1-22-18) – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade. Episode 406 (2-5-18) – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407 (2-12-19) – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.