Great Spring flooding discussed

Published 6:37 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2018

By Frederic Lee

 Staff writer

It wasn’t Hurricane Florence that caused significant flooding along Great Spring Road in Smithfield, but rather an unnamed storm the week before. 

The latest storm caused damage for the handful who live in what could be described as a bowl-like area along Great Spring. 

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Ruby and Rebecca Holloway have been residents of Great Spring Road for almost 20 years. The couple has lost four cars due to area flooding, most recently being a work van that Ruby was issued by his employer. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“My job won’t allow me to use another van because of the flooding problem,” Ruby said, adding that his insurance adjuster marked the water to have risen eight feet in the most recent flood.

“We have to keep full coverage on all of our vehicles because of the flooding,” said Rebecca. “Every time it rains, our yard gets flooded … How could you ever know that this area would flood like that?”

According to the Southside Hampton Roads Hazard Mitigation Plan and, portions of property along Great Spring Road are within Flood Zone AE, also known as the “100-year floodplain,” a term used to indicate an area that has a 1 percent chance of flooding every year. 

Richard Phillips lives on Great Spring Road as well. He lost many valuable belongings in the most recent flood, including thousands of irreplaceable specialty tools that he’d collected over the years. 

Another house had its foundation pushed back by the force of the water. 

Phillips said that when he originally purchased his house from his nephew in 2016, he had a survey conducted by Canada Land Surveying of Smithfield. The surveyor said his property was in Flood Zone X/AE. According to Janet Graham with Canada Land Surveying, this designation means that while not all of Phillips’ property lies in the 100-year floodplain, part of it does. Zone X indicates a moderate to low risk of flood.

Victor Robinson, who also lives on Great Spring Road, said, “Saturday night (Sept. 8) the water was three inches from flowing into my house. Just after 3 a.m., I had driven my car off of the street, but I wasn’t able to get back and get my daughter’s Toyota Camry. I lost everything on my first floor.”

Former Great Spring Road resident Laura Grayber, who lived there during both 1999’s Hurricane Floyd and 2006’s Northeaster, said that the area used to be zoned a “500-year floodplain.” “During the 2006 Northeaster, water levels reached 15 feet,” Grayber said. 

After that flooding event, several houses in that portion of Great Spring Road were elevated. 

A number of Great Spring Road residents want the town to do more about the flooding issue. 

“It took a week for public works to help us with a dumpster,” Rebecca said about the most recent flood. “The town should not allow houses here.”

“We want the town or county to do what’s right and to buy these properties,” said Ruby. 

Smithfield Town Engineer Wayne Griffin said that more intense rainstorms over recent years is one of several culprits behind the flooding, another being poor drainage. “We are working with various entities, including VDOT, to find a solution,” he said. (See related story page xx)

Town Council members want to meet with residents

By Frederic Lee

 Staff writer

Smithfield Town Council members Denise Tynes and Michael Smith say they want to meet with Smithfield residents who have been afflicted by recent flooding along Great Spring Road and Lakeside. 

“I’d like to have a meeting in the near future where we invite the community and address the flooding problem,” Tynes during the Sept. 25 Town Council committee meeting. “We must see what residents want us to do in regard to FEMA. Residents must not think that the town has forgotten them.” 

 “Is there something we can approach the state with in terms of these flooding areas?” Tynes asked. “Up into that Echo Lake community, the flooding can get so bad that some people can’t get into or out of their homes.” 

Great Spring Road, in the bowl-like area at the intersection of Quail Street, flooded during a rainstorm that came a week prior to Hurricane Florence. It rained nearly eight inches over a three-day period, according to the National Weather Service.

The rainstorms were part of an ongoing wet weather pattern, as the area has so far seen 10-14 inches more rain than normal. 

“When you design something, you build it to withstand certain weather events. Events that occur every 10 years, or 100 years,” said Smithfield Director of Planning, Zoning and Public Works William Saunders. “Some of the rainstorms that we’ve been having are 100-year events.” 

One hundred year events have a one percent chance of occurring every year.

Council members discussed the price of flood insurance, the possibility of reporting recent flood patterns to FEMA for more proper zoning and FEMA grants that provide funding for raising homes in afflicted floodplains. 

VDOT spokesperson Nina Napolitano said that Isle of Wight County has recently contacted the agency requesting a drainage study along Great Spring Road, and that the department expects to begin the process soon.   {/mprestriction}