Flood warning issued after waves of rain

A car travels through the flooded parking lot behind the Strasburg Emporium on Thursday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily
Water flows out of a gutter outside Strasburg Emporium along East King Street on Thursday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily
Water spills out along a ditch on Old Valley Pike north of Woodstock on Thursday afternoon as a tractor-trailer heads south along the roadway. Several Interstate 81 accidents led to an overflow of vehicles onto Old Valley Pike between Woodstock and Toms Brook. Rich Cooley/Daily

Lingering rain on the Northern Shenandoah Valley that led to a flood warning on Thursday caused some downed trees, water over roads and several traffic incidents.

The area saw intermittent showers and downpours throughout the day. Dan Hofmann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Sterling, said repeated bands of rain dumped 3 to 5 inches by midday and that the area should expect more through Friday morning.

The National Weather Service declared a flood warning late Thursday afternoon for southwestern Frederick County, northeastern Shenandoah County and Warren County that expired at 11:30 p.m. The warning reported flooding in certain parts of northwestern Virginia and stated some areas can see up to an additional inch of rain “but recent radar trends indicate the heaviest rains are shifting west of these areas.”

“The system as a whole really hasn’t moved at all over the last 24 hours,” Hofmann said, adding that it is expected to move very little and weaken on Friday. “There’ll be rain but it won’t be as widespread and heavy. … Right now the greatest risk for any additional downpours would be until tomorrow night.”

Traffic between Woodstock and Strasburg was bogged down because of a number of traffic incidents. Shenandoah County Fire Chief Tim Williams said in the evening that his department received calls of multiple crashes with no serious injuries reported.

A tractor-trailer incident with a fuel leak on Interstate 81 north of Woodstock caused traffic backups on the highway and on U.S. Route 11 in both directions, Williams said. With Virginia State Police in charge of the incident, Williams said the spill was contained and cleanup was underway as of Thursday evening.

“It makes even more of a mess when you’re dealing with the water levels out there on the interstate,” he said.

Williams reported some road closures on routes running west out of Strasburg, and advised drivers not to try and cross standing or running water.

Deputy Chief Larry Oliver, of the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Department, said that a number of roads prone to flash flooding were closed Thursday due to standing water, but the department didn’t need to conduct any water rescue operations.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate at this point,” he said.

Maj. Scott Proctor, of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, said its basement offices began flooding at around 2:30 p.m. after a torrential downpour.

“We were able to contain it before it made any really widespread damage,” he said Thursday evening. “We’re in the process of drying it out at this moment.”

He said the level of flooding – a few inches of “not clear” water that didn’t quite reach the whole basement – was similar to that of incidents caused by heavy rain during the summer.

According to Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative outage status maps, power outages affected about 880 customers in Winchester in the afternoon and more than 200 customers in both Shenandoah and Frederick counties in the evening.

Shenandoah County Public Schools canceled all after-school activities on Thursday. Frederick County Public Schools postponed Sherando High School’s homecoming parade to Wednesday because of inclement weather.

Hydrographs from the National Weather Service predicted that the North Fork of the Shenandoah River near Strasburg is expected to rise to 11 feet by Saturday morning with accumulating precipitation. The South Fork near Front Royal is expected to rise to around 8.8 feet by Saturday evening. Rising to such levels would put the river at near flood stage, but Hofmann said the water levels started low because of recent dry weather.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com.

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