Front Royal hit hard by flooding

By Joe Beck

Heavy rains early Friday morning led to crews from Warren County Fire and Rescue Services performing 17 rescues while responding to 38 emergency incidents.

In a news release, Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie said six people were evacuated from flooded homes, six from stranded vehicles and five from an island in the Shenandoah River.

“Due to the severity of the storm and the amount of calls initially received, the department called for all volunteer responders to report to their stations, and all career fire and EMS personnel were called into work,” Mabie said in a written statement. “As a result of the dedication of the volunteer and career fire and EMS personnel and the swift actions of our local law enforcement agencies, no drownings or significant injuries were reported.”

Mabie said the five people rescued from the island were campers in the area of Hazards Ford Road. He said the campers awoke and found their site surrounded by fast moving water before fire and rescue workers removed them from the area after being called to the scene around 1 p.m.

The first water rescue call came in at 3:01 a.m. when a woman was stranded in a vehicle in the middle of a flooded roadway, Mabie said. The driver was able to rescue herself.

Just after 3 a.m., the department received a report of flood damage causing a structural collapse at a single-family residence, according to Mabie.

The department reported the entire basement wall on the rear of the home collapsed, and the occupants were forced to evacuate. A Warren County building official later declared the home uninhabitable, according to Mabie.

Just before 4 a.m., the department fielded a call from a nursing home asking for help in evacuating staff and residents. Fire and rescue officials concluded that “no persons were in immediate danger and to shelter in place at the facility,” according to the news release.

Fire and rescue services also listed the following incidents that spanned the early morning hours until 12 p.m.

• At 3:17 a.m., someone reported a flooded home and occupants needing help in evacuating the structure.

• At 4 a.m., Front Royal Fire Station No. 1 opened an emergency shelter and hosted a total of six people who had been forced from their homes.

• At 4:29 a.m., heavy flooding was reported at the Gooney Creek campground. Rescue workers removed one person to safety.

• From 10 a.m. until 12 p.m., the department received four calls for hazardous materials containment and cleanup stemming from gas lines or other pipes breaking.

Town officials closed traffic over several bridges spanning Happy Creek as a result of flooding.

Town manager Steve Burke said work crews from the departments of energy services and environmental services worked with the police “to make sure signage was in place to detour traffic or at least stop it from going through high water.”

Burke said bridges over Happy Creek on Criser Road, Prospect Street and 8th Street were closed for several hours. The Criser Road bridge will remain closed until it has been inspected and damage repaired.

“The damage to the Criser Road bridge was significant,” Burke said.

The National Weather Service reported 4 inches of rain fell in Front Royal, the highest total in Shenandoah, Frederick and Warren counties. Other amounts ranged from 3.94 inches just east of Stephens City to 2.87 inches in Edinburg.

The forecast calls for a chance of showers before 2 a.m. this morning and mostly cloudy skies with a low around 48. Today is expected to be mostly sunny with a high of 69, followed by mostly cloudy skies and a low of about 45 tonight.

Shenandoah County Fire Chief Gary Yew reported no safety or property damage problems in his jurisdiction from the rain.

“Since the storm started, we’ve had only one call for water rescue and that was a motorist who was out of the vehicle by the time we arrived,” Yew said.

Yew said the north fork of the Shenandoah River was cresting below flood stage.

“It’s certainly not as bad as it could have been,” Yew said of the weather’s effects.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com