Preventing Flood Damage

Property Protection

There are various actions that you can take to reduce the flooding damage to your home or business. Electrical panels, furnaces, water heaters, and washers/dryers should be elevated or relocated to an area less likely to be flooded. Basement floor drains and backwater prevention valves can be installed and interior floodwalls can be placed around utilities. If flooding is likely, and time permits, move essential items and furniture to the upper floors of your home. Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency waterproofing. These actions will help minimize the amount of damage caused by floodwaters. The Office of the City Engineer maintains data on historic flooding elevations on various channels. The Stormwater Division is available to provide advice on flooding, drainage and storm drain problems. The Department of Planning, Building and Development is available to provide advice on retrofitting or modifying buildings to protect them from flooding. Learn more about different ways to protect your property here

Drainage Maintenance

The city of Roanoke is drained by a combination of underground pipes and open ditches. Maintenance of these systems is very important. Depositing trash, grass clippings, branches, leaves, or soil in a storm drain, pipe, or ditch obstructs the flow of water, which can cause flooding of roads and private property. It is the responsibility of all property owners to keep ditches on private property clear and cleaned of debris. If you know of any unapproved filling or rerouting of streams or ditches, please contact the Department of Planning, Building and Development at 540-853-1730.

Flood Mitigation Projects

The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA 2000) requires local governments, receiving federal disaster mitigation funds, to have a mitigation plan that describes the process for identifying hazards, risks and vulnerabilities and prioritizes mitigation actions, encourages the development of local mitigation and provide technical support for those efforts. The 2013 Regional Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan, developed by the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, fulfills the Federal requirements in identifying hazards; establishing community goals and objectives and mitigating activities that are appropriate for the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany region.

The City of Roanoke remains very committed to the reduction of flood hazards. Many mitigation projects have specifically targeted repetitive loss homes.  Since 1997, the city has purchased 50 homes that have experienced repetitive flood damage. The homes have been removed, and the lots will remain vacant and maintained in perpetuity. The city has also upgraded many storm drains and bridges to more quickly drain stormwater during heavy rains. In conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers, the city has completed the Roanoke River Flood Reduction Project (RRFRP) which will also reduce flooding and risk for some properties along the Roanoke River. These improvements will decrease flooding from smaller, more frequent rainfalls; however, it will not protect against larger floods like that which occurred in 1985. 

The city continues to monitor and mitigate stormwater and flooding problems within its limits. If you are aware of a problem, or a potential problem, please notify the Stormwater Division at 540-853-5900.

Natural and Beneficial Functions 

Under natural conditions, a flood causes little or no damage. Nature ensures that floodplain flora and fauna can survive the most frequent flooding. Natural areas (those without development) help reduce our flood damage by allowing flood waters to spread over a large area. This reduces water velocities and provides flood storage to reduce peak flows downstream.  When natural areas are developed, flood velocities and flood risk increase for the area.  It is our job to preserve natural areas in the floodplain whenever possible. The city has adopted ordinances to reduce future development in our natural floodplain areas. The city also has an ongoing commitment to work with its surrounding jurisdictions because of the impact that development in these areas has on flooding throughout the Roanoke Valley.

Help us preserve natural areas. Don't pour oil, grease, pesticides, or other pollutants into the storm drain. Both the streets and storm drains carry water to the Roanoke River. Polluting the Roanoke River will damage the resiliency that natural areas contribute to a community.  Learn more about stormwater pollution and how you can help. Be part of the solution, not the pollution. Together, we can create a clean water legacy. 

 Some Natural Functions of Floodplains    
Natural Flood and Erosion Control
    • Provide flood storage and conveyance
    • Reduce flood velocities
    • Reduce peak flows
    • Reduce sedimentation
Water Quality Maintenance
    • Filter nutrients and impurities from runoff
    • Process organic wastes
    • Moderate temperature fluctuations
Groundwater Recharge
    • Promote infiltration and aquifer recharge
    • Reduce frequency and duration of low surface flows
Biological Productivity 
    • Promote vegetative growth through rich alluvial soils
    • Maintain biodiversity
    • Maintain integrity of ecosystems
Fish and Wildlife Habitats
    • Provide breeding and feeding grounds
    • Create and enhance waterfowl habitat
    • Protect habitats for rare and endangered species
 A United National Program for Floodplain Management FEMA-248 (1994)