A look at the storm that led to Staunton’s flash flood in August 2020

Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:34 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:48 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - In a matter of a few days in early August of 2020, the Shenandoah Valley went from nearly a widespread drought, to just about enough rain for most locations in the area. After several rounds of heavy rain and strong storms between August 5-7th, the stage was set for many areas. It wouldn’t take much rain for some areas to flood quickly. Storms were not widespread on Saturday, August 8, 2020. Late in the afternoon a few storms formed over Shenandoah mountain and moved east. The problem is, these were slow moving. Slow moving storms means heavy rain.

AUGUST 8, 2003

Now Staunton has seen major flash flooding events before. In fact, on the same date in 2003, there was a line of storms in Augusta county that sat for hours producing heavy rain. For more on that event and stories that aired on WHSV from August of 2003, click here:

Staunton flash flood August 8, 2003

A look back at the 2003 flash flood

August 8, 2003

AUGUST 8, 2020

In 2020, rain started to fall in Staunton just after 8:30 p.m. It wasn’t a severe storm, just slow moving. Heavy rain continued to fall and the intensity of the rain became incredible.

The rainfall rate so intense, it didn’t take long for flooding to start, especially in an area prone to flooding. Here’s the radar from that night.

A slow moving storm led to flash flooding in Staunton

These are rainfall reports from the night of August 8, 2020. Street locations were added to depict where the information was being reported. Two spots did report 7″ of rain, and most of that falling in about 90 minutes.

August 8, 2020
August 8, 2020(WHSV)

Even after several cars being stranded and stuck in water, some people even trapped in buildings downtown as the water rose, no injuries were even reported, and there were no deaths. That is incredibly wonderful news out of such a powerful flash flood.

Here are some of the photos submitted by our viewers. A reminder that it is never safe to drive across roads covered in water. Water can rise incredibly fast, and water is extremely powerful.

You can see in some of these videos how a street was turned into a raging river. You never know how deep that water is and in many cases of powerful floods, this can wash the asphalt away under the water. Most flooding deaths happen in vehicles.

It was reported that water was as deep as 5-7′ in the Warf area downtown.

By Sunday morning, residents were shocked at the damage. Flooding in this area has not been seen at this level for a very long time. The flooding caused $3.1 million of damage and impacted 164 properties.

Unfortunately another flash flooding event would happen in Staunton just two weeks later. A study on this flood event says that this as well as the one two weeks later were both 1 in 500 year flood events but that does not mean a flood of that magnitude would happen on average once every 500 years. It means that the probability of a flood of that magnitude occurring is 0.2% each year.

If you would like the see the full report:

If you would like to see how the city has recovered since that event, you can check out our Rebuilding From Disaster story.

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