Residents and visitors faced unexpected challenges traveling in Rappahannock County this past weekend as torrents of rain flooded roads, stranded travelers and carved new potholes and gullies.
The short-term impact of the deluge was that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) closed more than 40 secondary roads in Central Virginia April 16 and 17, according to VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter.
Four teenagers and two cars were trapped in flooded streams Saturday. The teens, who live in Northern Virginia, climbed to the roof of their vehicle to escape rising water, according to Richie Burke, the county’s emergency services coordinator. Castleton and Amissville Fire and Rescue companies responded to a call for assistance at 10:20 p.m. near the intersection of Richmond and Laurel Mills roads. At that point the water was up to the windows of the vehicle, which had lodged against a pole, Burke said. He adds that flash floods regularly occur in this creek.
Using swift-water rescue equipment, three emergency responders waded to the car, and, one by one, escorted the teens to safety. There were no injuries, Burke said.
Earlier that day, at about 4 p.m., Washington and Flint Hill Fire and Rescue companies responded to a call where they found a car trapped in the Rush River. The driver was on dry land and unhurt, Burke said.
While trees and debris were cleared from several roads, flooding damaged Mount Marshall Road the most, Hatter said. Blocked culverts diverted a creek to the road, essentially creating a new stream bed. The water’s force “scrubbed out the gravel down to large stone and dirt,” Hatter said. As soon as road conditions permit, VDOT will spread and grade a new gravel surface. (See the letter from a Mount Marshall Road resident here.)
Twelve VDOT staff and the superintendent of the Rappahannock Area headquarters monitored road conditions, and stayed on the job over Saturday night, Hatter said, closing roads as necessary, and opening them as water receded and obstructions were removed.
Hatter suggested checking 511virginia.org for the latest updates about road conditions, closings and openings.
Farther afield, tornadoes spun through several Virginia localities Saturday, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service, including Augusta, Dinwiddie, Pulaski and Rockbridge counties.
Storms caused four deaths in Virginia, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner — one each in Gloucester and Wythe counties, and two in Waynesboro.
Matthew Van Hook, who has owned a weekend getaway off of Mount Marshall Road since 1988, compared the impact of this weekend’s storms to the flooding in 1995.
“Fortunately, this flood was not of that magnitude,” Van Hook said in an email, “but it sure again evidences the force of water coming downstream off the mountain.”