Heavy rains hit Ashe County Wednesday afternoon at approximately 3 p.m., falling on already saturated ground and causing flash flooding in the streets of West Jefferson by 4:30.
Creeks and streams were quickly swollen, with many single lane bridges impassable by early evening, stranding many without access to main roads. The north and south forks of the New River broke bank Wednesday night, flooding low-lying areas and roadways.
The heavy rain came in advance of a cold front which froze surface water and brought an inch or more of of snow yesterday.
About a dozen homes had basements flooded, according to Ashe County Emergency Services Manager Patty Gambill. “So far we have had less than 20 structurals,” she said, meaning residences with significant structural damage.
Gambill said the emergency shelter at Mountainview Elementary was opened by 7 p.m. Wednesday night, but that no one arrived needing shelter.
“We want to caution people: don’t drive through standing water,” she said. “You can’t see what’s under the water or if the road is there.”
“We had to rescue five or six motorists who got stranded in the water,” she said.
Damage to property and infrastructure were not substantial enough to qualify for FEMA funds, Gambill said.
“We are seeing mostly (damage to) culverts, driveways and private bridges,” she said.
Yesterday morning several roads were blocked by mudslides, downed trees and flooding, or closed by the DOT due to washouts or undercutting of the pavement. Department of Transportation (DOT) crews still responding to flood-related situations were reassigned to snow removal this morning.
Crews have worked non-stop in 12-hour shifts since the storm, said County Maintenance Engineer Randall Miles.
“When you have flooding and snow events, you have to deal with the snow first,” said Miles. “With snow coming we can’t even see what we’ve got to repair.”
As of this afternoon, the DOT listed four impassable roads in Ashe County:
- Jake Blackburn Road at in Lansing at Little Phoenix Creek
- Will Vannoy Road south of West Jefferson near Lower Nettle Knob Road
- Double Springs Church Road east of Jefferson near Cranberry Creek
- Methodist Camp Road near West Jefferson
“I’d like to ask residents to be patient,” Miles said. “This is a county-wide event…we’ve got 800 miles of road we’re responsible for.”
“Please keep in mind we have 800 miles of roads we are responsible for,” he said.