RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After enduring a day and night of fierce rains, the James River is under a flood warning. River experts and analysts warn residents to think twice before bringing out the kayaks or rafts until the water level falls.

Josh Stutz with the Friends of James River Park told 8News that levels hit over 12 feet on Saturday, April 29. This means rapids pick up and there’s a heavy presence of debris racing through the water. Rain or shine, these high levels could last through next week.

“In the last 24 hours, we’ve seen a spike of almost six feet in the river levels,” Stutz said. “That’s going to crest that a little over 12 feet later today.”

Rafter Sami Phillips had her own frightening adventure out on the water this morning.

“I took a tumble with one of my friends,” Phillips said. “[It] got very scary, very fast.”

She said the high levels made the river noticeably faster and harsher. That’s why she and her friends made sure they had a trained guide with them.

Stutz confirmed water rescues tend to peak this time of year.

“We see a lot more accidents,” Stutz said. “A lot more rescues having to happen in these early spring or late spring, early summer months.”

On Sunday, April 30, river levels are expected to hit a vicious 9 feet, which happens to be the same height waters hit last Memorial Day weekend. That date marked the tragic incident where two women lost their lives after being carried over Bosher’s Dam.

Experts told 8News that beautiful weather immediately following heavy rains can create the perfect storm for danger. Even if it’s not raining outside, river levels on a calm day could reflect storms from days prior. Stutz emphasized how local fire departments and rescue squads are forced to put themselves in harms way during a rescue mission.

“It’s really important to know those levels and know your skill level and know what you’re up against,” Stutz said. “You’re putting other people at risk.”

Stutz reiterated the importance of checking river conditions before heading out on the water.
We have a live look at the river on our new James River camera here: