Tropical Storm Michael downs trees, destroys roads, kills power

This section of Spring Road over Clark’s Mill Pond was one of several area roadways washed out by Tropical Storm Michael. Photo by detective Nancy Johnson, Northumberland County Sheriff’s Department


Megan Schiffres
Madison White Franks

by Megan Schiffres and Madison White Franks

KILMARNOCK—Tearing up trees, flooding roadways and downing power lines, Tropical Storm Michael blasted through Lancaster and Northumberland last Thursday and Friday. Wind speeds reached over 50 mph when the storm swept through the area and caused damage in both counties.

In Northumberland, nearly every major roadway in the county was closed due to fallen trees at some point over the weekend, according to Northumberland chief of emergency services Rick McClure.

“We had initially multiple roads closed because of trees blocking them but a lot of those have been cleaned away and they’re open again. To my knowledge, we only have three that are going to be closed for an extended period of time,” said McClure.

Hampton Hall Road near Callao, Courthouse Road in Heathsville, and Spring Road in Heathsville were washed out during the storm and will remain closed until they can be repaired by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

“First of all, they have to plan, then they have to come and dig out both sides and then they have to rebuild. There are some in Westmoreland that have been closed for 6-8 months. Hopefully it won’t be anywhere near that,” McClure said.

In Lancaster, flooding caused a drainage pipe to fail which lead to the formation of a sinkhole at Mary Ball Road between White Chapel and Courthouse roads, from Lancaster to Lively, said VDOT Fredericksburg District communications manager Kelly Hannon.

“VDOT crews are making this emergency repair and we anticipate the roads can be reopened to traffic early next week,” said Hannon.

Courthouse Road and Spring Road will require reconstruction plans to install new drainage structures and restore the road’s travel surface so there is no reopening time frame at the moment, she said.

Northumberland County Emergency Services did not respond to any medical emergencies related to the storm, although they did have to reroute their ambulances to accommodate road closures over the weekend.

“We did not have any injuries or medical emergencies that were caused by the storm,” said Lancaster County interim chief of emergency services Matt Smith. “Our crews assisted several households with family members that are oxygen dependent to get them on the portable oxygen tanks while the power was out.

“We had two medical calls during the storm but they were general calls and not storm related. We had one call where a vehicle was overcome by rushing water on a flooded roadway, but the occupant was able to get out and get to safety,” he said.

“Everything else was mostly trees down, alarm systems tripping from the power outage, downed power lines and flooded roadways,” Smith added.

The Lancaster County Communications Center did an excellent job providing callers with storm information, dispatching emergency crews to incidents and managing damage sites, said Smith.

The storm pulled down power lines throughout the Northern Neck, causing thousands of residents to lose electricity Friday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, power was restored to every Dominion Energy customer in Northumberland and Lancaster counties, said Daisy Pridgen of Dominion Energy.

As of Tuesday morning, according to Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, there were four customers without power in Lancaster, 118 in Northumberland, and one in Westmoreland County. Northern Neck Electric was working to restore the remaining outages.

On Friday, Lee’s Restaurant and The Dub Shack, both in Kilmarnock, emptied their freezers and refrigerators, cooked and gave away the food. Lee’s also accepted donations.

At the Dub Shack, Jessica Deale and L.W. Courtney IV and employees served food from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., said Deale.

“We’re just glad we could help people out,” she said. “If  they are going to be without power for three or four days, this might be the last hot meal they get for a while.”

At Lee’s, seven family members and three employees manned the fryers and grills, bagged the food and served the customers, said Bill Lee, who indicated he’d rather give the food away than throw it away. They served food from 1-3 p.m. They also boxed meals to deliver to Bon Secours Rappahannock General Hospital staff.

Lancaster County’s Community Emergency Response Team in partnership with Rappahannock General Hospital opened a charging station for those citizens with power loss, a place to charge their electronic devices. The YMCA provided a shower station to those citizens in need of a shower facility and the Town of Kilmarnock opened their yard hydrants at the Kilmarnock Town Centre Park to allow area residents a place to collect water for flushing toilets, bathing and cleaning, said Smith.

“The county again, showed the ability to come together and care for area residents and visitors. There were also many reports of citizens working together in their neighborhoods to help each other with clearing driveways and debris from homes and yards and ensuring the neighborhood was safe,” added Smith.

In Northumberland there were two vehicle accidents related to the storm but neither resulted in serious injury, according to Lt. Ashby Allen of the Northumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

Northumberland County Public Schools closed early last Thursday for the storm and remained closed on Monday, before reopening two hours late on Tuesday. According to Northumberland superintendent Holly Wargo, five bus routes had to be modified in order to reach parts of the county affected by the storm.

The new bus routes are:

• Bus 5, driven by Angela Burkhead, will add 10 minutes by taking a detour at Lively Hope Road to Gibeon Road, Gibeon Road to Richmond Road in Village before continuing to the school.

• Bus 23, driven by Debra Vincent, will add 10 minutes by taking the same detour as Bus 5, then continuing the route through Harry Hogan Road, Kissinger Spring Road and Lodge Road.

• Bus 12, driven by Quinton Swann, will add 8 minutes by turning around at the end of Deer Run Road, to Lively Hope, to Gibeon towards Richmond Road.

• Bus 28, driven by Keith Howard, will add a few minutes by turning on Indian Valley instead of continuing up Courthouse Road, then continuing to Northumberland Highway.

• Bus 21, driven by Phyllis Coleman, will add 15 minutes by turning around at the end of Georgetown Road and return to Brown Store Road before going to Wicomico Church.

Lancaster County Public Schools were also closed for the storm last Friday, and remained closed Monday. Transportation director John Mann said the school buses would follow the VDOT detours.