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At this point, no one in the Twin County area is surprised when they hear the weather forecast announce a heavy rain or thunderstorm.
And for the past couple of months, the storms have become so prolonged and severe, they have caused a level of structural damage that will take time and money to come back from.
Galax Public Works Director Charles Joyce has had every available hand working on street repairs since a series of storms hit Galax over the past several weeks.
“This is a thousand-year storm event, which is a term that I never heard in my 30 years with construction,” Joyce told The Gazette on July 19.
According to the National Weather Service, the rainfall in June met the yearly average in this area. Halfway through the month of July, rainfall accumulation was at 600 percent of the month’s average.
On July 12, an afternoon storm over the city dumped four inches of rainfall in less than an hour. This led to flooding in several areas, including the flood zone around Givens Street and Meadow Street and on Main Street. The freak storm trapped a large group that turned out for the city’s second Cruisin’ & Groovin’ event, and partially submerged some of the antique cars parked along the street.
Joyce explained that the volume of rainfall was solely responsible for the flooding that day. “The storm drains are designed to carry a certain amount of rain, and we were getting four to five inches of rain. It overwhelmed the system. We’ve never had a rainfall that heavy,” he said.
Storms over the weeks have washed out several roads in Galax, causing collapses along Chestnut Creek and Brickyard Road.
Joyce and his team have worked to repair several pipes, culverts and clogged drains along MacArthur, Oldtown and Murphy streets; Hospital Drive and Prospect Avenue. They are also working to repair a sinkhole that opened up between the ball field and Railroad Avenue at Felts Park.
“We need to fix this before the fiddler’s convention," which starts Aug. 5. Campers will start coming into the park Aug. 4. "We’ll need to have around 60 feet of that pipe replaced.”
Last week, Joyce and City Manager Keith Barker took a three-hour ride through the city to survey the damage.
“I told Keith not to be shocked when the bills start coming in,” Joyce said, but could not provide an exact cost for repairs.
Time estimates were also unknown, but Joyce says that his crew is working hard to get everything back to normal as quickly as possible.
“I can’t stay in the office,” he said of his increasingly busy schedule. “We have 25 people to take care of the water, sewer and street repairs, and you can’t stretch them but so far.”
Joyce noted that he’d even pulled some help from the city’s mowing crew to work on repair projects to complete them faster. “We’re dealing with public safety first and foremost,” he told The Gazette. “There are people out there with other issues, and they wonder why we’re not fixing them. And I am fixing them, but we have to tackle the bigger problems first.”
Joyce also said that part of the repair process is simply waiting for the clouds to lift. “We still have a lot of standing water, and we need several good days of dry weather to give the ground time to dry out,” he explained. “We need to just be patient and pray for the rain to stop.”
Though weekend rains weren’t as heavy as recent storms, flash flooding was predicted again on Monday.
Hillsville experienced flash flooding and sudden damages earlier in July that knocked out parts of West Grayson Street and Chinquapin Trail, which state road crews tackled to repair.
Virginia Department of Transportation workers had advanced repairs on West Grayson Street repairs in Hillsville to the point that the road could reopen Tuesday, said Lisa Hughes, VDOT area administrator. West Grayson had flooded and the road collapsed at a culvert
On Monday, workers had gotten the replacement culverts installed and the road bed had been graded. Water barriers known as "rip rap" were being placed on the embankment and along the creek, while a pump diverted the water around the work area.
Repairs to Chinquapin will take longer because of the large size of the culvert that needs to be put in there, she added.
“The [96-inch] pipe for Chinquapin will have to be fabricated, and we will be using a different contractor to sleeve the existing pipe,” Hughes said in an e-mail to The Gazette. "We are estimating mid- to late August with a lot depending on the contractor’s schedule, also.”
Manor House Road — with a sizable collapse of an embankment near Olde Mill Golf Resort — will need to follow a similar process as Chinquapin Trail, she added. If the needed 66-inch pipe is available, repairs to the road may be finished more quickly.
The replacement of a low water bridge on Virginia 816 in Cana won’t get started until early August.
In Grayson County, Virginia 94/Riverside Drive remains closed between Nuckolls Curve Road and the Carico Memorial Bridge, due to a road collapse.
VDOT expects repairs to take a month.