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UPDATE: That was Richmond's biggest rainstorm since Gaston, and our wettest week in 63 years

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The Richmond area just saw its heaviest rainfall in years — nearly 10 inches in some neighborhoods over the past week — and the resulting flash floods triggered memories of some other infamous storms.

Storm event totals

Selection of storm total rainfall reports around the Richmond metro area according to the National Weather Service in Wakefield.

The last time the metro area saw more rain in a shorter period of time was during Gaston’s deluge of Aug. 30, 2004.

Gaston

Animated radar map of Gaston moving across central Virginia on Aug. 30, 2004. It was classified as a tropical depression along most of its path through the area, but regained tropical storm status late in the evening as it neared the coast.

Gaston came ashore as a hurricane in South Carolina, then arced northeast and inundated Richmond in only 8 hours.

Gaston rainfall

Map of Gaston's track and rainfall in late August 2004. Note that the bullseye of heaviest rain was extremely small, even smaller than the most recent rainstorm.

Up to 12.6 inches fell in the West End that day, while the airport picked up 6.68 inches.

The latest rainstorm didn’t have a name and it played out over a few days, but it will be memorable in its own right.

Here’s a timeline of totals from the official rain gauge at Richmond International Airport between Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

2018 precip

Graph of Richmond's year-to-date accumulated precipitation (green) compared to normal (brown). It only took two days to go from a deficit to a big surplus.

Wednesday: 1.04 inches.

Thursday: 2.67 inches, which beat the daily record of 2.16 inches from May 17, 1932.

Friday: 3.86 inches, which was noteworthy for several reasons.

For starters, it was the wettest day we’ve ever seen during the month of May.

Richmond’s daily precipitation records date back to 1887, and the wettest May day had previously been May 20, 1889, with 3.22 inches.

It clearly passed the previous daily record of 1.67 inches from May 18, 1992.

It was the first time Richmond set consecutive daily rainfall records since September 2010.

Saturday: 0.68 inches. (Updated: previously reported as 0.67 inches through 5 p.m.)

Combined, that was 8.25 inches during the four days that a stationary front meandered across our region.

Add in the 0.23-inch from last Monday’s severe storm and that was 8.48 inches over the course of the week.

The last time Richmond International Airport measured a rainier week was when Hurricanes Connie and Diane tracked up from North Carolina in back-to-back fashion in August 1955.

Connie dumped 8.79 inches of rain on Richmond in one day alone, which remains the all-time daily rainfall milestone.

Hurricane Connie

Map of Hurricane Connie's track and rainfall in August 1955. This storm was responsible for Richmond's largest single-day rainfall total on record. Unfortunately, Hurricane Diane followed a similar track nearly a week later.

Even though this recent rain wasn’t caused by a tropical cyclone, the comparisons are somewhat appropriate.

An air mass that originated in the tropics was funneled north into our region and wrung out by a stubborn stationary front.

Every corner of Virginia was soaked by the resulting downpours, but the west-to-east arrangement of that front focused the heaviest amounts in a zone stretching from Roanoke and Martinsville to the Northern Neck.

7-day rainfall ending May 20

Map of radar-estimated rainfall totals over the 7-day period from May 14 to May 20. The heaviest totals in the state were just northwest of Richmond.

Totals varied significantly from town to town, with roughly 10 inches in some western portions of Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover counties, and about 3 inches in other parts of central Virginia.

Richmond’s official monthly rainfall for May 2018 is already up to 8.84 inches as of Monday with 10 days left to go.

May precipitation

Comparison of Richmond's May rainfall. This May brought more than twice the normal precipitation, and it could close in on the monthly record over the remaining days. This is the third May in a row that was much wetter than normal.

It’s already the fourth-wettest May dating back to 1887.

The rainiest was May 2016 with 9.79 inches.

Check Richmond.com/weather for John Boyer’s videos and forecast updates. Contact him at (804) 649-6209 or JBoyer@timesdispatch.com.

Meteorologist

John Boyer is the first staff meteorologist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the RTD newsroom in November 2016. Boyer earned his degree in meteorology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

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