- Last Updated on Sunday, 06 January 2013 11:33
- Published on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 14:41
- Hits: 911
When three of the seven man-made dams in Placid Bay Estates and Westmoreland Shores gave way in sustained heavy flooding on Thursday, Sept. 8 after Tropical Storm Lee dumped almost 21 inches of rain on Colonial Beach residents were without water, sewer and a way out.
On Saturday PBE Water company announced that water and sewer systems were fully operational.
Larry Sprouse, President of PBE Water company, reported in a phone interview on Monday, Sept. 12, that despite washed out power lines and poles, Northern Neck Electric
Cooperative — after only two hours on scene — had power restored to all residents in Placid Bay around noon Friday, Sept. 9, after the storm.
While officials worked to repair the roads, parking for residents of Placid Bay was set up in the Outdoor World parking lot. Assistant County Administrator Karen Lewis coordinated with Bay Transit to provided at no charge a 12-passenger handicapped accessible bus to residents of the area for rides to Colonial Beach for grocery, medical and other needs and remained in place for the roughly 50 residents who still had no access by car.
Blake Franklin, manager of Franklin Mechanical, the company that installed the sewer system for Westmoreland County, volunteered to furnish his truck and managed to obtain another from Walker Sand & Stone to haul clay to repair the dam between Seahorse and Chrystal lakes. The Civic Association of Placid Bay Estates agreed to pay for the clay.
Sprouse and Manager, Artie Newlon, volunteered a day and three pieces of equipment to rebuild the dam.
Sprouse reported that after bringing in 12 loads of material, the Seahorse and Chrystal dam had been saved, but would require additional reinforcement with concrete and rip rap on the surface.
But roughly 50 stranded residents were virtually cut off from civilization in Placid Bay Estates for a week after the storm.
Soon they began calling themselves residents of the “Dark Side” after kids erected a sign saying, “Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies!”
A small section of Placid Bay Estates to the East of Lake Placid is usually accessible by roads leading over three dams, T-Dock, Short Way and Lakeview Drive. Both T-Dock and Short Way were completely washed out leaving only Lakeview Drive, which became a waterfall during and after the flooding. As the waters receded it was evident that a section over 150 feet had washed out of the road.
Relief efforts for the stranded residents went into effect as soon as possible by the Association Board and other entities.
Despite all the efforts residents were frustrated, worried, confused and feeling left out in the cold.
Tonya Hawkins asked at a special meeting on Tuesday evening, Sept. 13, “How are emergency vehicles going to get to us in an emergency, fire trucks can’t even reach us out there.”
Although Westmoreland Schools opened the following Monday after the storm, parents didn’t want to send their kids to school having to navigate the dangerous foot path created on Lakeview Drive.
William (Billy) Cobb who owns his own company was losing money and jobs being unable to get his equipment out to work.
The residents who were cut off by Lake Placid were banding together, sharing vehicles on both sides of the washout, but felt the rest of the subdivision had left them high and dry.
Lakeview Drive was the only hope for the residents to leave and enter the subdivision and passage was possible only by foot.
Lakeview Drive was literally turned into a waterfall during the flooding and as waters receded the damage revealed was shocking.
The main sewer line to that section of Placid Bay was washed out. A section of the roadway on the outbound lane suffered severe underwash, causing the road to collapse underneath.
A temporary sewer line had been put in place on the inbound side of Lakeview. Residents were forced to navigate an array of filled-in dirt and cracking asphalt road and then had to step over the temporary sewer line to a 2-foot wide path, then back onto asphalt while crews work to replace the permanent sewer lines.
Residents were allowed to park vehicles on either side of the washout in the evening hours, but had to remove them by morning before work crews arrive.
The road leading up to the mammoth washout was dark and unlit. Crossing the crumbling side of the road was scary, to say the least, and residents feared someone was going to fall off the drop off, which was at least one story deep in some parts.
The trip across was made more harrowing by the noise of startled beavers, who residents say are a big contributor to the water spilling over the roadway.
Some residents claim that for years they have volunteered to clean out the three drainage pipes beneath Lakeview that connect Turtle Pond and Lake Placid, but have quickly been stopped by the Association.
The Association denies ever trying to stop residents from clearing the drains and are always welcoming help from the residents.
The Placid Bay Civic Association met at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 to discuss what actions would be taken with Lakeview Drive and the progress being made. Surveys were passed out to residents to list concerns and immediate needs in an attempt to get residents help they desperately needed.
The few residents from the “dark side” who managed to get word of the meeting and make it to the civic center, listened to presentations by VDOT and The PBE Water Company but were still concerned because their needs had not been met.
David Brown, VDOT Resident Administrator for the Northern Neck, spoke to a crowd of more than 50 people, only about 10 of whom were residents of the from the section beyond Lake Placid, including three on the board.
Brown reported that VDOT was stalled until the contractor working on replacing the permanent sewer line was finished.
Brown addressed resident concerns that the road would eventually have measures put in place to avoid future problems but stated that the main goal was a temporary fix to allow vehicle traffic to get across and estimated a Thursday or Friday completion for that phase of the project.
Stranded residents were skeptical of that goal, saying the crews working on replacing the permanent sewer are knocking off early.
Brown said Lakeview is considered a secondary road and funding in recent years has not allowed upgrades, but assured residents with the amount of rainfall for the area, even if the road was up to code it would have washed out due to the succession of dam breaks in the area.
The following day residents began to see a marked improvement. VDOT road crews and Franklin Mechanical worked side by side, installing the permanent sewer line then filling in dirt until the work was completed and a temporary dirt road was finished by 7 p.m. on Thursday Sept. 15. More work needs to be done but residents can now leave the subdivision in vehicles.
Cheers could be heard through out the neighborhood when Lakeview Drive reopened.