April’s Slow Moving Rain Storm
PBS NewsHour declared it as “Slow-moving storm drowns parts of Southeast with record rainfall”. Torrents of rain caused severe flooding in parts of the Florida panhandle and coastal Alabama. Some parts of Alabama saw up to 26 inches of rain in 24 hours, and powerful thunder and lightning storms overnight knocked out power to thousands. Also, a train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia.
Here in Virginia the rain was torrential for several days. It moved into the commonwealth April 28th on an early Tuesday morning as a nice spring rain. Washing away the pollen and bring some much-needed rain.
At times the gentle sprinkles gave way to a calm relaxing rain. Nothing unusual for this time of year. But it never stopped. It never gave way to brief moments of damp humidity that so often comes with rain in the Old Dominion.
As the afternoon wore on, the rain fell harder and lasted longer in its downpour. We began seeing streams of water build up on the sides of our yard and flow down the small hill to the lake at the end of our property.
Then the winds came. Tornadoes had touched down through the regions where the storm had already crossed the south and south-east. Now it was in our backyard. We watched as the rain-soaked trees bent over to the east against the strong wind. Worried if we would be facing a disaster of our own when one of the giant oaks or pines falling upon the house. Thankfully we were spared that night.
Into Wednesday April 29th, the thunder and lightning increased. Our house was hit by lightning in 2007 and it has had a lasting impact on our son. Sitting in my lap I felt his entire body shaking and his little heart pounding through his chest. It’s frightening and scary, builds the stress already within the house as the cell phones rang out their alarms warning of Tornado watches and warnings.
Here in our little part of the world, our lake community was spared from any major disaster. So far at least. The lake is 300 acres and it has risen higher than we’ve ever seen it in our 13 years of living here. Through some infamous tropical storms like Isabel and Hurricane Irene, we’ve seen flooding and wind damage. But even in those conditions, the rising waters have been historic.
On the east end of the lake sits the man-made dam, complete with a very large spillway. In late 2012, the spillway was shored up and repaired after standing guard for over 50 years. The lake was drained prior to the work and completed in time for the winter snow melt and spring rains to refill the water levels. And while it received a work out in the spring of 2013, those over flows were brief, light and barely lasted a few hours.
This spring however, the new spillway took a work out and thankfully preformed beautifully. The management and oversight of the dam falls under the responsibility of the Property Owners Association (POA) designee. That being the Manager of the Administration office. First thing that usually happens around here during a flood event is the state calling with orders not to open the lake drains and further flood the original creek the lake was built upon. Flooding down stream is an issue and releasing additional water could make things worse for those living along the flood creek.
But nothing can be done about the spillway. It’s there to help maintain the lake, but it’s also there to prevent flooding in our community and upon the creeks upstream that still feed the lake. There are three of those. Each one on the west side of the lake itself.
When the spillway floods, the POA office closes the road. Our nearly 2mile drive from the security gate to our house turns into nearly a 10mile drive around the entire lake. What we call “going the back way” to get home. During this historic storm however, and for the first time many around here say they can remember, the road was closed on the back side where the main creek feeds into the lake. The water was said to be about 3ft deep over the road and that meant it had to rise at least 5 feet to get the road in the first place. Technically at this point, we’re cut off.
But alas, the designers anticipated such events and there’s an Emergency gate on the south side of the community. The man-child still had to get up and get ready for school. He really wanted to stay home yesterday. But he changed his tune when we had errands to run in town. That’s about 20miles from home. Along our trip we stopped at some of the large rivers we cross to get into town. Namely the South Anna River.
It’s spectacular to the water rise on this otherwise lazy river. The drop from the dam is usually about 8 to 10 feet. Upon these torrential down pours the river rises almost even with the dam and that’s a pretty spectacular sight.
With our errands complete we drove home and again took some time to sight see along the way. We stopped by the North Anna River park and it too was over flowing its banks. Though we have seen it equally high in the past. Then we headed home and decided to drive around to the dam and take a walk over to the spillway and check it out. The new spillway takes away some of the spectacular views of the waterfall like overflow. The retaining wall used to drop about 3feet, now it’s the size of a curb.
But the roaring thunder of the flowing water down the basin to the main creek is spectacularly awesome. The construction in 2012 changed the water flow enough that now we can safely walk down the side of the spillway basin and look up at the monumental water flow and subsequent rapids created by the flooding of this historic storm.
It’s also the first time we’ve collected video of the sight. Which somehow seems appropriate. A historic storm and our moment of shock and awe.
At the end of the day, our adventure, though exciting for us, doesn’t pass by without the realization of how blessed we are to have been spared the tragedies of this unbelievable storm. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who were not as fortunate.
© 1997-2014 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D., Springwolf’s Kosmos. All Rights Reserved.