Great Falls rages and roars in Potomac flood (PHOTOS and VIDEO)

May 19, 2014

The Potomac River is above flood stage at Great Falls, May 17, 2014.  Trails upstream from the falls were closed due to flooding.  (Kevin Ambrose)

The line of cars waiting to enter Great Falls Park grew longer as Saturday morning progressed.  Many people wanted to see spectacle of flood waters rushing and exploding over Great Falls after our recent heavy rain event.  At one point on Saturday, the National Park Service posted that the wait was one-to-two hours to enter Great Falls Park.

I arrived early, before the crowds, and the sound of the falls immediately greeted me as I stepped out of my car in the park’s parking lot.  When the Potomac River floods, Great Falls is loud.  The sound is impressive.

The flow rate of the Potomac River at nearby Little Falls peaked at slightly over 150,000 cubic feet per second on Saturday.  The median flow rate is 10,000 cubic feet per second.  I have included a flow rate chart and photo comparison to show the difference in flow rates from near normal levels on the river and Saturday’s flood stage.  The photo comparison also shows the contrast of seasons at Great Falls.

Potomac River flooding to the level we saw this past weekend is not too uncommon.  On October 31, 2012, the flooding from Sandy was comparable, perhaps slightly less.  Here’s a photo post to check out Sandy’s flooding of the Potomac.  Here’s another post showing a flood from February 4, 2013.

A contrast of seasons and water levels. The image on the top was taken January 4, 2014 and the image on the bottom was taken May 17, 2014. Both photos were taken from the same location. (Kevin Ambrose)
A contrast of seasons and water levels. The image on the top was taken January 4, 2014 and the image on the bottom was taken May 17, 2014. Both photos were taken from the same location. (Kevin Ambrose)

The Potomac River flow rate at Little Falls.  The river peaked at slightly over 150,000 cubic feet per second and the median is 10,000.  (USGS)

A small tree, usually situated high above the water, is just above the floodwater.  (Kevin Ambrose)

Water explodes upward as it rushes over Great Falls, May 17, 2014.  (Kevin Ambrose)

The Virginia side of Great Falls, May 17, 2014.  (Kevin Ambrose)

A wide view of Great Falls, May 17, 2014.  (Kevin Ambrose)

A Great Falls panorama, May 17, 2014. (Kevin Ambrose)

Debris in the Potomac River, May 17, 2014.  (Kevin Ambrose)

Debris in the Potomac River, May 17, 2014.  (Kevin Ambrose)

Video of Great Falls, May 17, 2014.  (Kevin Ambrose)

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Jason Samenow · May 19, 2014