By Alex Bridges
STRASBURG -- Hurricane Sandy left Gloria Floyd and her neighbors stranded at their Ash Street homes two years ago.
Virginia National Guardsmen rescued Floyd, Melynda Mondragon and her fiance from their houses when Sandy swept through the region and caused water flowing under Ash Street to rise and flood the area around their two houses.
"I give [the National Guard] the glory and the praise because they saved my life, just like they did her," Floyd said Wednesday.
Floyd also credits Mondragon for alerting guardsmen that she was still in her home.
But Floyd and Mondragon say they hope a project underway to replace the drainpipe under their street fixes the ongoing flooding problem once and for all.
Strasburg received approval for $405,000 through the Community Development Block Grant Urgent Needs program to replace the existing metal drainage pipe with two, 6-foot, concrete culverts town officials say should suffice for heavy water flow. The town awarded a contract to G.B. Foltz for $288,620 to perform the work and complete the project by Nov. 12. Town Manager Judson Rex said he expects the contractor to complete the work well before the deadline and to not go over budget.
Floyd has been involved in the project since the early discussions with town officials, serving on the management team that handled the grant. Floyd said she expects the work to take weeks and months. The town has set up detours around the project site but are allowing residents to go through.
"Hopefully the worst of it will be done before that," Floyd said.
Floyd and Mondragon recalled the night the storm came through. The two went to sleep unaware the stream would flood as much as it did. Guardsmen arrived just before midnight to rescue the residents. Mondragon told the guardsmen she thought Floyd was still home. Guardsmen went to Floyd's home and took her to safety.
"I had to get myself here together and grab whatever I could grab and the guy said 'ma'am, you've got to get up out here,'" Floyd said, adding that her neighbor had told them she was still at home. "They said 'you've got to go now.'"
Floyd said she had to put on a life preserver and hold on to the guardsmen as he waded through the water. Floyd compared the stream to Niagara Falls as it flowed over the street.
"It was just a terrible feeling," Floyd said. "This whole road was gone. The driveway was gone. It wasn't nothing out here."
Mondragon recalled the experience.
"It was pretty wild," Mondragon said. "We didn't know she was still down in there and couldn't get out."
Mondragon uses a prosthetic leg and had difficulty getting into the guard's vehicle so they could take her and Floyd to safety.
"If I'd have been trapped in here with no leg, I'd have been in a mess," Mondragon said.
Floyd and Mondragon were able to return to their homes early the next morning.
The problems have plagued Ash Street since as early as 1996. Floyd's photographs from that year show extensive damage to Ash Street caused by flooding and water cresting over the road.
"So this is not something that just occurred," Floyd said. "It's nothing new."
Floyd added that she had not gone through flooding to the same degree as what Sandy caused. After checking the stream as the hurricane passed through, Floyd said she went to sleep not thinking the water would rise as high or as fast as it did. Mondragon recalled making the same assumption before going to sleep.
Mondragon pointed out that flooding often occurred because debris from upstream would clog the drainpipe, causing water to back up and rise into her yard, sometimes reaching her home. Flooding from Hurricane Sandy rose high enough to come into the crawlspace under her home.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or email@example.com