Ophelia brought worst flooding since 2016, but minimal damage

Published 5:47 pm Monday, September 25, 2023

Isle of Wight and Surry counties saw their worst tidal flooding since 2016 but minimal damage this weekend from Tropical Storm Ophelia’s heavy rain and wind.

The cyclone made landfall over southeast North Carolina early Saturday, bringing wind gusts that peaked at 61 mph as measured at Cape Henry in Virginia Beach.

Impacts in Isle of Wight were limited to downed branches and power outages, according to Will Drewry, the county’s emergency management coordinator.

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A boat docked at the Smithfield Station restaurant, hotel and marina on South Church Street sank at roughly 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning as nearly five inches of rain poured down on the town. According to Randy Pack, who co-owns the station with his brother, Brian, the boat was recovered later that day.

Dominion Energy’s outage tracker showed 50 homes in Isle of Wight without power as of Saturday morning, only five of which remained in the dark as of early Monday. The remaining outages, all in the Carrollton area, were removed from the map by Monday morning.

In Surry, impacts were much the same, though there were a significantly higher number of outages reported.

According to Surry Emergency Services Chief Ray Phelps, at one point 695 homes were without power, Phelps said. All had been restored as of Monday morning, according to outage maps for Dominion, Community Electric Cooperative and Prince George Electric Cooperative.

“We fared well,” Phelps said.

The National Weather Service’s Wakefield station recorded between 2 and 5 inches of rainfall for the area.

According to NWS Meteorologist Eswar Iyer, Isle of Wight and Surry counties saw the worst of Ophelia’s tidal flooding. Water crested at 5.23 feet above “mean lower low water,” something the NWS has not observed for the region since 2016.

The term refers to the average height of the lowest tides for each day over 19 years.

According to Drewry, there was another reported sinking of a boat at Morgart’s Beach during the storm, which turned out to be only a piece of fiberglass that got churned up by the choppy water.

Smithfield Town Manager Michael Stallings was aware of only one instance of storm-related damage in the town, which occurred when one of Smithfield’s sewer pump stations had electrical issues due to the excessive rain and power outages. 

Windsor Town Manager William Saunders said he was unaware of any substantive damage from Ophelia to the town.

The approach of the storm prompted a flurry of cancellations on Friday and over the weekend.

The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry suspended operations at high tide early Saturday but resumed operations that same morning.

Isle of Wight County Schools sent students and staff home two hours early Friday and canceled after-school activities. Ophelia’s outer bands reached Isle of Wight by mid-afternoon that same day. Smithfield High School’s home football game was moved to Monday.

Surry County Public Schools also canceled after-school activities.

The Smithfield Farmers Market planned for Saturday morning was also canceled.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency as the storm approached.

Isle of Wight County’s refuse and recycling centers reopened Sunday afternoon after closing ahead of the storm.

The town of Windsor proclaimed a local state of emergency on Friday.