Torrential rain, flooding hit Woodstock
WEATHER ALERT! Residents of Woodstock and other areas that saw flooding on Monday morning need to be alert this afternoon for the potential of more rising water.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch that is in effect from 2 p.m. through late tonight for our region as well as portions of Maryland and the Washington, D.C., metro area.
According to the weather service, “Scattered to numerous thunderstorms will develop late today into tonight. These storms will be slow moving and capable of producing heavy rainfall. Rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches will be possible in an hour. With saturated ground … these rates could result in flash flooding. Small streams and urban areas will be especially susceptible to rapid rises of water onto normally dry areas.”
WOODSTOCK – Flash flooding in the Woodstock area Monday morning forced the evacuation of more than 100 people from their residences and closed numerous roads and bridges.
Shenandoah County officials declared a state of emergency by early afternoon.
Rising water several feet deep at the Wood Park Lane trailer park led to the evacuation of at least 45 people, many of whom were taken to an emergency shelter that was established at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School. A few hours earlier, 74 people were taken from the Greenfield of Woodstock assisted living center to temporary housing at the Comfort Inn.
A two-story apartment building on Shenandoah Avenue in Edinburg was also evacuated. Shenandoah County Fire Chief Gary Yew said two residents were evacuated and taken to a church until the flood waters receded.
No injuries were reported.
The Virginia Department of Transportation listed 32 road closures in the county. A few businesses also closed.
Yew reported three calls to his agency to rescue motorists stranded in floodwater.
Shenandoah County Fire Marshal David Ferguson said the trailer park will remain unoccupied until the county building inspector has deemed the units fit for occupancy again. Ferguson said state and local public safety officials were concerned about submerged electrical boxes, leakage from fuel and kerosene containers and the possibility of sewage leaks.
Law enforcement officials and a hazardous waste coordinator from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management were also at Wood Park Lane.
Ferguson said electricity to the trailer park had been cut off to prevent electrical shocks and fires.
Water in the trailer park was waist deep in some places. Flooding also closed bridges, roads and businesses throughout Woodstock.
“The flood damage is some of the worst I’ve seen in my career,” Ferguson said.
Andrea Spitzer said she waded through knee-deep water to reach dry ground after authorities ordered the trailer park evacuated.
“It’s overwhelming, that’s what it is,” Spitzer said, adding that she left clothes she needs for work back in her trailer.
“I’m worried about getting back into my home and going to my job,” Spitzer said.
The evacuation was the second in three years at the trailer park. In 2012, heavy rain from Hurricane Sandy led to an evacuation, which, unlike Monday’s, was voluntary.
Wood Park Lane is owned by Woodstock Trailer Court LLC. Robert Claytor, a managing partner in the firm, said the park has 27 trailers. Claytor said the two floods were the only such events in his 35 years of park ownership.
Claytor said both times most of the water originated at a drop inlet at U.S. 11 and Moose Road. The drop inlet goes into the trailer park and carries water into the lower end of the property, Claytor said.
Claytor said the torrential rainfall’s short but intense duration was the main reason for the flooding.
“I’ve told everybody I can control a lot of things, but I can’t control Mother Nature,” Claytor said.
An oily film was visible on the water around the trailers, evidence of the kerosene and fuel oil that escaped from containers.
Several residents said the water had covered the steps leading into their trailers but did not reach the interior.
Sheena Williams took her three children with her when the evacuation order came.
“They’ve been pretty good,” Williams said of her children’s reaction to the emergency.
Warren Beasley said he has lived at Wood Park Lane with his girlfriend for about a year. Before they were informed about the shelter at the middle school, he said he and other residents were unsure of where they could stay after the evacuation was ordered.
“If I had known there was going to be this flood here, I wouldn’t have moved in,” Beasley said.
Yew issued a written statement in which he said his agency was dealing with “a variety of emergencies in the central part of Shenandoah County associated with this flooding event.”
Yew listed the Virginia State Police, Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia Department of Transportation, American Red Cross, the Virginia Department of Social Services, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Shenandoah County Public Schools among the agencies involved in the response.
Yew said in an interview that he was “very confident” that no one will be allowed to return to the trailer park until Tuesday “at the earliest.”
He said Greenfield’s staff “anticipated being able to move their residents back in this afternoon.”
A person answering the phone at Greenfield on Monday evening referred questions to the corporate office, which was closed until Tuesday.
Forecasts for intermittent rain through Tuesday continued to worry public safety officials.
“Obviously, the soils are well saturated here in central Shenandoah County,” Yew said. “It wouldn’t take much rain to have another problem.”
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org