At first, Erin Murillo and her family thought a fight had broken out at Capital Ale House on Saturday afternoon.
They heard shouting, and then people started running past their booth at the restaurant on 917 Caroline St. in downtown Fredericksburg.
Murillo asked a man what was happening, and he replied that the roof was about to collapse just behind them.
Ten seconds later, a wave of water crashed into the restaurant from above. She and her family—including her children ages 3 and 9—were ankle-deep in water as they rushed for the exit. Outside, rain fell in sheets, and water pooled in the street.
“My sister said it looked like the Titanic,” said Murillo, who lives in Lusby, Md.
“It just sounded like a big, huge wave,” added the sister, Heather Johnson.
Capital Ale House’s roof had collapsed in the shape of a “V” into the seating section just past the bar, in the middle of the 200-year-old building, said Fredericksburg Deputy Fire Chief Mike Jones.
Nobody was injured, an outcome Jones described as “very lucky.”
Murillo described the scene as “very scary,” saying her 9-year-old daughter is afraid to go back to a restaurant.
Johnson said one woman fell as she was trying to escape, but a “nice gentleman” helped her back up.
“I think everybody got out at the right time,” Murillo said.
Jones described the damage as “significant,” but said officials haven’t determined the exact cause of the 3:30 p.m. collapse of a flat section of the roof.
“It was a fairly significant, fairly violent storm as far rain amounts go in a short period of time,” he said. “But right now, it would be just pure conjecture if I tried to speculate a reason” for the collapse.
He said he thought “significant repairs” would have to be made to the 6,578-square-foot building before the restaurant can reopen. None of the adjacent buildings were damaged, Jones added.
“I don’t think it’s going to be open any time soon,” he said of the popular restaurant, which opened in 2008.
He said the building’s owner will need to hire a structural engineer to assess the damage.
Several Capital Ale House employees stood outside the restaurant after the incident but declined to comment. The manager was unavailable for comment.
On nearby William Street, the Fredericksburg Antique Mall also flooded. A woman cleaning the store didn’t want to discuss it.
“We don’t need talking, we need workers,” she said.
Elsewhere in the Fredericksburg area, Spotsylvania County was forced to postpone its annual Stars and Stripes Spectacular amid flash-flood alerts and tornado watches.
The fireworks are now scheduled to go off at 9 tonight in the historic Courthouse area. The band Full Armor will perform at the Merchants Square Pavilion from 6 until 8 p.m. The Fredericksburg Community Concert Band will take the stage at 8.
Jim Lee, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Sterling office, said he received a report of a little more than 2 inches of rain in just an hour in Stafford County. “That’s a pretty good rate,” he said.
He said some trees fell at the intersection of River and Bragg roads, and that Brooke Road was flooded near Andrew Chapel Road.
There may be some scattered showers this morning, but “nothing like we had” Saturday, Lee said. He said the rain should be gone by afternoon.