Return to story
Ned Donalson (left) and the Rev. Jim Reed of Church of the Messiah look at damage from a fire caused by a lighting strike.
Heavy rainfall knocked out Mattox Avenue in Oak Grove, opening up Placid Lake into Burnt House Cove.
Nearly a week of heavy rain took a toll on the Northern Neck yesterday washing out roads, breaching dams, flooding buildings and closing schools.
More than 12 inches of rain spawned by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee fell since Monday on areas east of Fredericksburg.
The town of Colonial Beach and counties of Westmoreland and Caroline were particularly hard hit. Some streets in the town beside the Potomac River were under 3 to 4 feet of water Thursday night.
The National Weather Service reported that portions of Westmoreland and King George counties and Charles County, Md., got the worst of the precipitation.
Meteorologist Kevin Witt said the closest official reporting station in that area is in Jersey in King George. It received 12.3 inches since Monday.
"That's the only true measurement we've got," Witt said. He said the most intense band of rainfall was about 10 miles wide and stretched north from Champlain in Essex County up to Bel Alton in Charles County, Md.
Colonial Beach and nearby Placid Bay Estates, where lake dams were washed out, were right in the middle of that band.
The flooding left people stranded in cars, and submerged and washed out roads along the Interstate 95 corridor in the eastern part of the state. Authorities say the flooding contributed to three deaths, two in Fairfax County and one in Southampton County.
Some Weather Service spotters reported substantial rainfall amounts for Wednesday and Thursday alone. One spotter reported 11.45 inches of rain in 31 hours in Reston, while Reagan National Airport reported 6.26 inches over the same period
Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency yesterday in response to flooding. The declaration authorizes state agencies to help localities respond to problems and helps deploy staff, equipment and supplies to the affected areas.
Dozens of the region's roads remained closed yesterday evening, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
VDOT doesn't have an estimate of the total damage caused by the storms. It could take weeks before that information is available.
The worst-hit counties were Caroline, which had 15 closed roads, and Westmoreland, where 14 roads were still closed as of 5 p.m. yesterday
Last night, VDOT crews were working to reopen State Route 205 at the King George-Westmoreland county line, and to reopen State Route 3 in Westmoreland. Lights will be positioned at the scene so crews can continue work after dark, and work will continue until the roads are reopened tonight.
VDOT estimated that 16 roads in the 14-county Fredericksburg District were heavily damaged, but as water recedes they expect to find even more damage, said spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.
More than 200 VDOT workers have been clearing roadways since yesterday, and they'll continue through the weekend.
Today, VDOT specialists from the Staunton District will be working on specific areas, Hannon said.
One group, a temporary bridge installation team, will be working on State Route 624 in Westmoreland, "where some property owners currently do not have access to their homes," Hannon said.
The flooding was severe enough to close portions of the the Capital Beltway on Thursday night. The Virginia Railway Express suspended service yesterday because of flood damage.
High water closed schools yesterday in Northern Virginia as well as Colonial Beach and Westmoreland, Caroline and King George counties.
Thursday night, the Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department sent hovercraft and boat teams to northern Prince William County to aid in the rescue of about 100 residents of the Holly Acres Mobile Home Park on Jefferson Davis Highway.
Despite five straight days of rain, it appears the immediate Fredericksburg area was spared the worst of this week's weather woes.
According to the University of Mary Washington weather station, 5.52 inches of rain fell on the city between Monday and yesterday, with the biggest slug--nearly 2 inches--coming on Thursday.
There was one significant flash of damage, however. The Church of the Messiah off Route 3 near the Harrison Crossing shopping center was struck by lightning about 9:30 p.m. Thursday night.
Orange County resident Euel Tritt saw the bolt strike, and drove to the church to make sure no one was hurt. He found an empty church and parking lot, but saw smoke billowing from the roof of the parsonage. He made sure the building was empty and called 911.
He said firefighters responded in less than five minutes. They quickly had the fire under control.
"If they hadn't responded in a timely manner, it could have been a whole lot worse," Tritt said.
Pastor Jim Reed said the fire destroyed his office and the nursery. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the main church building was unscathed.
"We're going to have to gut everything and rebuild everything," Reed said. But he also said regular services will be held tomorrow.
Most of the rainfall came because our area was, essentially, stuck between two hurricanes that diminished to tropical storms. For nearly a week, the I-95 corridor was under a stalled frontal boundary followed by the last vestiges of Lee. In both cases, the storms were slow-moving, with weak upper-level winds struggling to clear them from the area.
The mid-Atlantic states were in the neck of a weather funnel directing warm, moist air from the south to our area and points north.
Local weather blogger Chris White said the phenomenon is known as "training," meaning that a line of storms continuously passes over the same ground.
As destructive as so much steady rain can be, the storms were not unprecedented.
"It's not too uncommon to get something like this every once in a while," Witt said.
If there is a benefit, it's that the unusual weather pattern has made up for the relatively dry summer.
The recent rain, including 3.88 inches on Aug. 27, has brought the annual rainfall total in Fredericksburg back to average levels, although the area is now well above normal for September.
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036
"At this point, we expect to run
VRE shut down service Thursday night and yesterday after the deluge that swamped the region. Water swept over the tracks just south
CSX workers have to rebuild that bed to secure the tracks before trains can run again, and they've already started doing that work.