Ris­ing Roanoke River forces evac­u­a­tions and ve­hi­cle res­cues

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NEWS - BY HENRI GENDREAU AND ALI­CIA PETSKA The Roanoke Times


ROANOKE — The Roanoke River was ex­pected to crest at just above 16 feet early Fri­day morn­ing — the level con­sid­ered a ma­jor flood — as at least two Roanoke neigh­bor­hoods and a mo­tel were evac­u­ated and swift-wa­ter crews res­cued peo­ple from ve­hi­cles trapped in flood­wa­ters.

No in­juries were re­ported in the three res­cues.

The flood­ing was caused by three days of al­most con­stant rain, the re­sult of a stalled up­per-level low-pres­sure sys­tem just west of the state.

To­tals of 6 to 10 inches were com­mon in and near the Roanoke Val­ley, with a few higher amounts along the Blue Ridge south of Roanoke. The rain was ex­pected to di­min­ish to show­ers overnight Thurs­day into Fri­day as the low fi­nally pulled away to the north­east.

Start­ing be­fore dawn and con­tin­u­ing into Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Roanoke con­tacted more than 100 res­i­dents and en­cour­aged them to evac­u­ate as a pre­cau­tion as the threat of more flood­ing loomed. That in­cluded 60 homes in the Pied­mont neigh­bor­hood of south­east Roanoke and about 13 homes near Spring Val­ley Lake in south­west Roanoke, where of­fi­cials were con­cerned about the safety of an up­stream dam.

Roanoke Fire-EMS Bat­tal­ion Chief Trevor Shan­non said there were no other im­me­di­ate hot spots be­ing mon­i­tored by the city.

“We feel we have cov­ered a ma­jor­ity of those ar­eas,” he said. “We do not see any new in­un­da­tion zones that we have to im­me­di­ately fo­cus on at this time.”

Emer­gency co­or­di­na­tors were go­ing to con­tinue to closely watch con­di­tions through­out the night, he said.

Res­i­dents were en­cour­aged to be vig­i­lant and keep up with weather re­ports. Those in flood­prone ar­eas might want to con­sider gath­er­ing es­sen­tials and mov­ing to higher ground, said city spokes­woman Tif­fany Brad­bury.

“The evac­u­a­tions that we’ve done have been done out of an abun­dance of cau­tion,” said Shan­non, not­ing that wa­ter had reached the front door of some houses. “We’re look­ing at a sit­u­a­tion here that we haven’t seen in quite a while.”

The city evac­u­ated the Ra­mada Inn on Franklin Road late Thurs­day af­ter­noon as ris­ing wa­ter lev­els en­croached on the ho­tel.

Of­fi­cials helped move more than 40 guests out of the prop­erty, Shan­non said. That in­cluded a num­ber of home­less peo­ple who were be­ing shel­tered there un­der ar­range­ments made by lo­cal non­prof­its to pro­vide them greater pro­tec­tion amid the COVID-19 pan­demic.

Those peo­ple were go­ing to be re­lo­cated to other ho­tels in the city, Shan­non said. The Amer­i­can Red Cross said it’s shel­ter­ing about 50 peo­ple dis­placed by flood­ing in the Roanoke Val­ley.

Else­where in the Roanoke Val­ley, the per­sis­tent pre­cip­i­ta­tion filled up the Carvins Cove Dam reser­voir and sent about 2 feet of wa­ter run­ning into its spill­way where it flowed onto Carvins Creek.

The 80-feet-tall con­crete dam wasn’t in dan­ger, but a pub­lic no­tice was is­sued in keep­ing with re­gional re­sponse plans, ac­cord­ing to the Western Vir­ginia Wa­ter Au­thor­ity. The reser­voir is a wa­ter source for the Roanoke Val­ley.

The next phase of ac­tion un­der re­gional plans would be trig­gered by

4 feet of wa­ter over­flow that of­fi­cials didn’t ex­pect would be reached. A 2014 study con­cluded that the dam could with­stand up to 14 feet of over­flow, of­fi­cials said. Wa­ter au­thor­ity staff mem­bers were mon­i­tor­ing con­di­tions.

The Smith Moun­tain Reser­voir was on course to ex­ceed its full pond level by 2 feet late Thurs­day and by 3 feet Fri­day. Shore­line prop­erty own­ers were urged to se­cure their boats and move items away from the wa­ter.


Pa­trick Chris­tian looked over the sit­u­a­tion out­side his home on Thurs­day as wa­ter from the Roanoke River be­gan to seep into his liv­ing room.

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