Rains, flooding wreak havok in rural Virginia

AFP Correspondent

(Sept. 29, 2015) While the Mid-Atlantic region braced for the impact of Hurricane Joaquin, areas of Virginia grappled with the effects of torrential rains earlier in the week washing away roads, crops and closing schools.
In many areas, people were evacuated from their homes near rising streams.
Wednesday evening, Sept. 30, Gov. Terry McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency retroactive to Tuesday because of the rain that had already fallen early in the week and the expected arrival of a hurricane.
The same day, the junior livestock activities at the State Fair of Virginia set for Oct. 2-4 were postponed until Oct. 8-11.
Due to the threat of heavy rain and possible severe weather, the State Fair of Virginia closed at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 and would not reopen for the remainder of the 2015 season. The fair was originally scheduled to run through Oct. 4.
Officials at the Farm Service Agency and Virginia Cooperative Extension were scrambling last Thursday to assess the damage in the counties where heavy rains hit earlier in the week.
They had done a preliminary assessment the day before but were trying to nail down hard numbers.
Even as they worked to assess the damage, they had their eyes on the sky and ears to the weather forecasts to see what could be expected from the approaching hurricane.
Travis Bunn, an Extension agent in Patrick County, one of the hardest hit counties, estimated agriculture damage there before the hurricane from $2 to $2.5 million damage after the preliminary review. He said the nine farms he visited Wednesday had at least $300,000 in damage.
The biggest problem in Patrick County, Bunn indicated, is to farm roads. Some have been washed completely away with depths in some places as much as four feet.
Patrick County lost a historic landmark to the flooding when the covered Bob White Bridge, built in the early 20th century, was washed away by the creek it had crosssed for more than a century.
In addition to this bridge, other bridges and culverts on roads across the county had been washed out.
In Montgomery County, the bridge in front of the Pilot Post Office was destroyed by flooding, Kelli Scott, Montgomery County Extension ag agent reported. Department of Transportation crews worked through the night to rebuild the bridge at a four-way intersection.
Pumpkins washing away seem to be one of the hardest hit crops. In Patrick County, Bunn said pumpkins planted in bottom land along the Ararat River have washed down the river.
In Montgomery County, home to Brann and King Farm, a supplier of pumpkins to Wal-Mart in the area, Dan Brann said at least 500 pumpkins have washed into the Little River.
The Riner community where they were planted received 11.6 inches of rain Tuesday, Scott said.
Brann said they were lucky not to have lost more pumpkins and hoped to be able to harvest the remaining ones before the hurricane arrived.
Bunn said Patrick County had lost at least 400 big round bales of hay. He said in places the bales were stacked along roadways. Removal of the saturated bales is expected to be difficult as they weighed 1,000 pounds dry.
Harvest in many areas is being put behind by the heavy rains. Jamie Stowe, Extension agent in Pittisylvania County, the state’s largest tobacco producer, said the tobacco crop is not finished and the crop is quickly going bad. Most of the corn has been harvested there but soybeans are still in the field.
Stowe said one person had reported that the soybeans are sprouting in the field. She said she was not sure if the vineyards in the county had finished the harvest before the rains came.
Scott said many vegetable growers had crops washed away in the high water.
As folks labored to pick up the pieces, they were very mindful that things could get much worse during the weekend, depending on the whims of Hurricane Joaquin.