Torrential rains from downgraded Hurricane Florence flood Rappahannock County

‘I was born and raised here and I have never seen it flood like that before’

A car plows through a flooded portion of Route 211 in Sperryville Tuesday morning, more than 12 hours after torrential rains turned the highway into a fast-moving river. John McCaslin | Rappahannock News

Editor’s note: This is a preliminary story surrounding damaging floods in Rappahannock County from the remnants of Hurricane Florence. An in-depth story will be published in this Thursday’s regular edition of the Rappahannock News.

In a brief but frightening two-hour period Monday evening, five to six inches of torrential rain from a downgraded Hurricane Florence came pouring down on a narrow corridor between Sperryville and Washington, flooding homes and washing out roads, trees and power poles.

While nobody was injured, impact from the heavy band of rain was so extensive and severe that Rappahannock County Public Schools were forced to cancel classes Tuesday.

“I was born and raised here and I have never seen it flood like that before,” Kevin Williams, Emergency Services Coordinator for Rappahannock County, told this newspaper Tuesday morning.

The homeowners of 1628 F.T. Valley Road just south of Sperryville will need a bridge to reach their house after floods washed away the asphalt road. John McCaslin | Rappahannock News

Flooding was so deep on one stretch of Route 211 between Sperryville and Shenandoah National Park that the highway could be mistaken for a rushing river.

“Basically we are very luck as far as water rescues go,” relayed Williams. “We had two cars that were stalled in high water but they were self extricated — meaning the occupants got out on their own. One was in Harris Hollow, the other one . . . on Green Road off Slate Mills.”

When Williams realized that the extremely heavy band of rain was localized, he repositioned emergency response personnel and specialized equipment from Castleton Community Volunteer Fire and Rescue to the Washington Fire and Rescue station.

The popular suspension bridge over the North Fork Thornton River directly behind Sperryville’s Pen Druid Brewing couldn’t withstand rushing waters Monday evening. John McCaslin | Rappahannock News

“We got about five to six inches of rain, last I heard, within a two hour period from that storm alone,” said the emergency coordinator, describing the area surrounding the county seat as the bullseye. “The crazy thing about it there were other parts of the county, such as Castleton, that didn’t see anything.”

“We did have a couple of houses where water did get in, and that is going to happen with this much rain,” he said. “I’ve seen places flood last night that I’ve never seen flood before.”

“I’d like to get out this reminder, and we can’t get it out there enough,” said Williams. “Turn around, don’t drown. Six inches of water is enough to knock somebody off their feet or get a car stranded. Depending on how fast the water is moving it can even move a smaller car off road.”

A power pole along F.T. Valley Road less than one mile south of Sperryville rests in a flooded creek bed after a deluge of rain fell on the area early Monday evening. John McCaslin | Rappahannock News
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John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at