The Richmond Flood Wall serves as a protective concrete wall against a sizeable flood. The flood wall is 15-25 feet (4.6-7.6 m.) tall. The Flood Wall has two overlooks on the Southside and several walking paths along its perimeter for tours. It has been credited for the revitalisation of Shockoe Bottom, once prone to substantial damage from severe floods from the James River. The second picture shows the watermarks from key historical floods. From bottom to top: Camille (1969), Juan (1985), Agnes (1972), and the historic 1771 flood which must have been our very own Hurricane Katrina.
City leaders saw fit at its inception to decorate the barren concrete facade with murals on key events in Richmond history. Yet the one honouring Confederate General Robert E. Lee stirred some local controversy. Some hooligans burned a version of the mural with the general dressed in his uniform. As a compromise (to the hooligans and a tiny cadre of people who look for something to offend them) they redid the Robert E. Lee mural, but with him dressed in civilian clothes.
The flood wall has been tested one time by a major flood. Ironically, it was from a mild (in terms of wind speed) tropical storm (Gaston) in August, 2004. 14 inches (35 cm.) of rain fell in the space of a few hours. The wall did its job protecting the Shockoe Bottom from water from the James River, but poor drainage on the other side of the wall led to the destructive floods. At one point during the storm, there was more water on the north side of the flood wall than there was in the James River. As of April, 2005, some businesses flooded out moved to higher ground, and some who rebuilt in the same place were still in that process.
The flood wall serves its purpose, despite the fluke of Gaston, but my true favourite thing about this is the spirit of most Shockoe Bottom businesses to reopen in place after such a disaster.
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