Winchester, North Virginia – A week of heavy rain has once again caused flooding in the Winchester area. After a solid week’s worth of steady rain the Shenandoah River, Opequon Creek and other local waterways burst their banks. The flooding forced the closure of 13 roads in the Clarke and Frederick counties.
According to U.S. Geological Survey forecasts, the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers hit flood stage on Friday and are expected to stay flooded into early next week.
On Friday, Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper said: “Anything that runs along the river is underwater.” Some roads in Jefferson country are reported to be under as much as 10 feet of water, having experienced between 7 – 10 inches of rainfall for the week.
Basement flooding forced the shutdown Friday of two Our Health buildings in the 400 block of North Cameron Street. Since 2014, it is the seventh time that flooding on North Cameron has closed some or all of Our Health’s four buildings.
Local companies such as VA Plumbing have been battling to clear the residential areas, as the city’s storm water drainage lines once again caused the water to back up into basements and overwhelm the city’s antiquated sewer lines.
Perry Eisenach, the Winchester Public Services Director said: “Our sanitary sewer mains, especially in the older parts of the city, are made out of clay pipe, and the manholes are made out of brick.”
“Water tries to find the path of least resistance, so it gets into our sanitary sewer mains and flows into the manholes. The sanitary sewer mains are not sized to handle all of this.”
Storm water runoff has been infiltrated with raw sewage, with many residents and offices reporting that they are unable to flush their toilets.
The concern amongst residents is that any fix is only going to be temporary. With further rains forecast for next week, there is growing pressure on city officials to provide a long-term solution. Eisenach stated that any long term fix project is anticipated to cost over $3 million, with Winchester paying half of the costs and the state of Virginia paying the remainder.
A National Weather Service flood warning remains in place with further raises in the Shenandoah River expected. Residents in low lying areas are being advised to move to higher ground for the time being.
Officials have expressed concern about the long-term effect on the buildings that are flooded with water and sewage on a seemingly regular basis following any sort of sustained rainfall. Mold and Mildew are common problems and residents are demanding more than just a temporary fix this time.
Eisenach defended the city response by saying: “We have moved as quickly as we reasonably can, given all the circumstances we’ve had to deal with.”
“These are some serious improvements that need to be made. … It’s another example of old infrastructure that needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, we can’t fix it all overnight.”