Saturday, May 19, 2018

Big Water

In my damn-near six decades of existence, I have never seen water hit my old hometown of Martinsville, VA, the way it hit this afternoon. I was driving up from Greensboro after work for my regular maintenance visit with Mom, and I'd heard just before I left there was a flash flood warning in Martinsville. The rain was coming down in buckets, but I didn't run into the floodwaters until I reached the city limits. On U.S. 220, I encountered several stretches with water a foot deep, and on Spruce Street, just before entering our neighborhood, I came upon a hundred-yard section of road under a couple of feet of water. A few cars approaching from the opposite direction plowed through it by driving down the center of the road, which is what I ended up doing—but if the water had been even a few inches deeper, I might well have ended up stranded. From there, the road appeared clear, and I stopped for some Chinese food to bring home for our dinner. It was only on that last mile that the extent of the flooding became clear.

The creek that runs along Indian Trail was swollen beyond anything I'd ever seen. The stream runs through a little gorge anywhere from 10 to 30 feet below the road level, and in places, the water had risen to the point it was washing over the road. At a small apartment complex on the corner of Indian Trail and Prospect Hill, the parking lot was flooded, the water level above the tires of the parked cars. Several broken trees lay next to the road but did not present a hazard. However, about a quarter mile from Mom's, a city vehicle was blocking the road, and an officer was turning back cars traveling the same way as me. He told me a tree had fallen across the road just past the electrical substation—the lot next to ours—and beyond that, down by Lake Lanier, the road was under water. I told him I only had to go one lot past the substation and I'd take my chances, so he let me through.

Indeed, directly in front of Mom's house, a good-size tree had come down over the road, taking out the phone line but—thankfully—leaving the power lines untouched. I was able to edge around its uppermost branches and turn into the our driveway. But sure enough, not even a hundred yards down the road, the creek was no longer a creek but a lake, the water easily ten feet deep in places and fully engulfing a sizable section of the road. A pair of ducks were swimming happily around their new pond, and I suspect they fully approved of the neighborhood's new decor.
Tree across the road right in front of Mom's house
Big water just down the street. Apparently, the level had gone down a little here — from photos I've seen,
it was waist-high in the middle of road.
Around the corner, on Sam Lions Trail at the end of Lake Lanier, a sinkhole had opened up and taken out a thirty-foot section of the road. The massive flood had washed the huge pipe underneath a hundred feet into the lake, and as I watched from a vantage point almost too close for safety, another section of road collapsed into the newly formed gulf. The city crews had already set up a barricade, but several more soon arrived and set out additional orange cones to warn drivers away from the danger area.

Not be deprived of a rip-roaring good time by inclement weather, the local redneck contingent took the opportunity to come out in their jacked-up pickup trucks and race up and down the roads, spinning their tires in mud and running over curbs into people's yards—including Mom's, as I discovered when I got back to the house. Chalk up another one for the Martinsville brain trust. It is rather a pity none of them got their kicks by discovering the sinkhole the hard way.

All this less than a month after a tornado passed within a half-mile of my house in Greensboro, unbeknownst to me at the time. All I knew was that the sky delivered a monstrous roaring wind and lots of water in the matter of a minute or so and then fell silent. Ms. B. lost power for a few days, but neither of us suffered property damage.

For now, Mom is okay, I am okay, the house is okay. Mom's phone and internet are out, but we still have power. From what I understand, the roof of the local Roses store collapsed and injured at least one person. A lot of cars suffered water damage over at Walmart on Memorial Blvd. Much of Collinsville is closed because so many businesses got flooded. So I'd say that, so far, we've been fortunate.

I do wonder if the Martians are going to invade to make things really interesting. Oh wait... there might have been one in Mom's basement, driven in by the flood waters:
The Martian invaders?

Some scenes from Indian Trail and Sam Lions Trail:
Apartment building at the corner of Indian Trail and Prospect Hill Drive
Footbridge over the stream that enters Lake Lanier under Sam Lions Trail
The culvert that had been underneath the road
Sam Lions Trail washout. Fixing that will take some work.

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