Looking back at the Flood of 1985

Digital Originals

From Halloween until the 5th of November in 1985, western Virginia was impacted by nearly a foot of rain. The event has been labeled the “Flood of ’85” or is often referred to as the “Election Day Flood” of 1985. During the six days of rain, ten people lost their lives here in the Roanoke Valley and caused millions of dollars worth of damage.

It started out with tropical cyclone “Juan” making landfall near Pensacola, Florida and moved north through Alabama and Tennessee before losing tropical characteristics over Kentucky. This complex storm imported the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the Commonwealth, then a cold front and other factors in the atmosphere combined to generate several days of rain.

This video shows the development and path of Juan, then the destruction and devastation left behind by the rain. Hundreds of swift water rescues were performed during the flooding and it is estimated that 125 people needed to be rescued by helicopter. Thanks to the brave men and women who risked their lives to save others, the death toll of ten could have been much higher.

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