James River to Crest at 15.5 Feet on Wednesday Morning

September 18, 2018 · 1 minute read

Look at that surge in the river level at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Westham Gauge just upstream of the Huguenot Bridge! In 48 hours, from yesterday morning until tomorrow morning, the river will have gone from about 5.5 feet to 15.5 feet. James Brown will be raging!

I did a little digging on how high 15.5 feet actually is, and it turns out that if the river hits that number at the Westham Gauge, it will be the highest we’ve seen the James since December 9, 2011. That’s almost eight years. We’ve had a couple of crests in the 15s — most recently this past February 12 when the river topped out at 15.4 feet. (The highest of all the recent crests was a 18.1 foot river in January 2010.)

Of course, all these numbers don’t mean much if you don’t know what the river looks like at that height, if you don’t have a mental image of what a given place at 5, 10 or 15 feet looks and feels like. Which tree roots are submerged at 12 feet at Texas Beach? At what height does the James start pushing water into Reedy Creek? What does Hollywood Rapid sound like at flood stage?

So, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes before work tomorrow to check out the river. If you can, get alongside it and feel the power. Watch the huge tree trunks that will inevitably float by like matchsticks. A river level this high might not come along for another seven years or more.