Heavy Rains in Virginia Close Roads, Prompt Evacuations at Dams

August 18, 2020

Torrential weekend rains in central Virginia led to scores of road closings in low-lying areas and prompted home evacuations near a pair of small dams.

Between three inches and 10 inches of rain fell in the greater Richmond area, particularly points south and east of the city, for the 24 hours since midday Sunday, the National Weather Service reported. A flood advisory was in effect for the region until early Sunday evening. Light rain was falling Sunday afternoon.

Severe problems occurred in Chesterfield County, south of Richmond, which declared a state of emergency Saturday. The county said dozens of roadways and intersections were closed due to floodwaters or downed trees Saturday night.

A heavily traveled area of the Chippenham Parkway near U.S. 1 was reopen Sunday after being closed in both directions overnight, the Virginia Department of Transportation said in a tweet. Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield was closed Sunday as staff assessed flooding damage.

Authorities in Chesterfield County and nearby Colonial Heights on Sunday told residents living near community dams they could return home after evacuation directives previously issued due to worries about high water levels and overspill were lifted.

In Chesterfield County, more than 150 homes in neighborhoods near Falling Creek dam were evacuated Saturday evening out of “an abundance of caution,” the county said in a news release. Some people took shelter at a local high school. No injuries were reported. The flooding threat from the dam was due to release of excess water from its gates and not any structural issues, Chesterfield Battalion Chief Sal Luciano told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The city of Colonial Heights also revoked its brief voluntary evacuation of residents near a dam at Lakeview Park after crews fortified the structure to address any concern about land connected to the dam washing away.

“City crews have been able to complete the work necessary to prevent immediate erosion,” Deputy Fire Marshal Joe Boisseau told The Progress-Index of Petersburg. The evacuation request was for residents in a neighborhood along Swift Creek.

High waters also threatened the city’s historic Swift Creek Mill Theatre. The main-level dining room was completely flooded, and the ground-floor level had more than a foot of water, the Theatre’s operators said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

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