Water rises and recedes quickly

-A A +A

Low-lying communities see water rush in after 24-hour rain

By Staff Reports

Parts of the Twin Counties saw water both rise quickly and then fall again Wednesday and Thursday after 24 hours worth of rain ceased, but levels in the New River are troubling Wythe County officials.


Carroll County saw significant flooding of roads and homes, 25 families were evacuated from the Givens Street area of Galax and camprounds near the New River in Grayson County were under water.

In Carroll, the hardest-hit community appeared to be Shorts Creek, where a resident said houses from Shorts Creek Church of God north to around the bend of U.S. 52 were inundated.

The neighbor said that water came through houses and caused damage to at least one car.

But Thursday dawned with the water receding back to the waterway, leaving standing pools in some places and evidence of washouts on the roads and debris on the low bridges on drives leading to peoples' houses.


Carroll County Emergency Services Director Mike Mock estimated about a half-dozen homes at Shorts Creek got flooded Wednesday. One person left her home to stay with family.

Hillsville Fire Department and Laurel Rescue Squad responded to the scene, prepared to do what was needed, including using a boat to get people out of their homes, Mock said. They were able to get to the person without having to resort to the boat.

A family in Wythe County in nearby Poplar Camp was flooded out, he understands.

Because Galax opened a shelter at the city's recreation center, Mock could have sent any people who needed to leave their homes there. He also had the option of sending them to the Carroll Search and Rescue Building where volunteers were standing by, if needed.

No other reports of serious flooding have come in from Carroll, Mock said.

Emergency officials continue to monitor the situation, with county deputies keeping an eye on flooding and the Red Cross and the Department of Social Services available if a shelter does need to be opened.

Authorities are also keeping an eye on Buck and Byllesby dams, in case the amount of water headed their way causes problems there.

American Electric Power officials on scene believe that the situation is now improving, as they have been able to open the auxiliary spillway around the dam. This is the first time that the dam has filled over the past 30 years.

Wythe County officials are concerned about potential dam failures, according to a statement issued Thursday.

"The state of the dams is currently a Condition B, which means that there is a potential dam failure at one or both of the dams," the statement said. "An imminent failure is not expected at this time, but the dam operators have been unable to access the dam due to flooding in the area."

The New River was already in flood conditions at the time of the warning, and a dam failure would increase water flows downstream, they warn.

"Residents of Ivanhoe, Austinville and those in low lying areas along the New River are advised to monitor local forecasts and be prepared to take action should flash flood warnings be issued," the statement said. "The watch will remain in effect through the morning of Friday, February 1, 2013."

Later Thursday, when water calmed in the New River somewhat, utility company workers got in and released the spillway gates.

This they believe will improve the situation by relieving pressure behind the dams.



In Galax, families were evacuated from the flood-prone Givens Street area, as water ponded up in the city's low-lying "Bottom" area. Chestnut Creek did not get out of its banks, but old storm drains in that neighborhood often can't handle heavy rains, leading to flooding.

The rising water levels prompted city officials to begin evacuations and other procedures around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Galax police and fire departments, Galax-Grayson EMS and Baywood Search and Rescue evacuated a total of 25 residents, including children, according to Police Chief Rick Clark.

Clark was at his home that evening when he received a call from the department. "My patrol staff was getting ready to evacuate a section of the city because of high water," he said Thursday.

Clark said that events were chaotic over a period of three hours that evening.

"My day shift had recognized that there were going to be issues and had not left. Three additional officers had been called back to work and the day shift dispatchers had refused to leave."

The Galax Department of Social Services was notified of the flooding, and quickly partnered with the Galax Recreation Center to open an emergency shelter through the night, Clark said. Galax employees, along with members of the American Red Cross, assisted at the shelter during the night.

Throughout the evening, the police received additional offers to help from concerned citizens and other fire and rescue agencies.

Clark extended appreciation to the Galax Police Department, Galax Volunteer Fire Department, Galax-Grayson EMS, Galax Department of Social Services, Galax Recreation Center, Galax Public Works Department and the Red Cross for their help.

"It was a remarkable effort to open a shelter and be prepared to help people in less than one hour," said Clark. "What makes it so remarkable was the spirit of cooperation and the team effort with a common goal of helping people in need. It was an honor to be associated with the effort."

Givens and Shaw streets were re-opened Thursday morning and most residents returned, but water ponded on the street's north end later in the day and city public works crews had to respond to clean out storm drains so water could recede.


Grayson County

The Grayson Sheriff's Department reported little significant damage in the county. The hardest-hit areas were the campgrounds and lots along New River.

No roads have been closed, and there were no problems reported as of Thursday afternoon at the Fries dam, though water levels rose higher than usual.

Lynn Worth, reporting in to The Gazette from Grayson County on Wednesday around 6 p.m., said Brush Creek was out of its banks and over the low water bridges that could be seen from Virginia 21.

“It is making wide swaths through the pastures. At Brush Creek Hall, there was a large amount of water on U.S. 21, but it was hard to tell if it was the creek or just from the rain.”