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Placid Bay is rebuilding

The small community of Placid Bay is rebuilding not only their community but trust as well. Dr. John L. Johnson, president of Placid Bay Civic Association and the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office have teamed up with the community to help make their neighborhood a safer more relaxed place to live.

Residents of Placid Bay, along with the town of Colonial Beach, had their nerves shaken to the core in the fall of 2011when Mother Nature hit the area with a series of natural disasters.

August 23, 2011 an earthquake, epicentered in Mineral, VA, shook up Colonial Beach and surrounding area residents, and was even felt all the way up in Canada.

Many residents were already watching the news in anticipation of Hurricane Irene, also in August 2011, which was approaching the Bahamas. Residents hoped Irene would not come this way. However Mother Nature continued to test Virginians and sent Irene crashing through on Aug 27 with winds around 80 miles per hour.

But Mother Nature wasn’t through yet, Hurricane Katia threatened the region but passed far to the east of Colonial Beach a week later, then came Tropical Storm Lee.

Tropical Storm Lee dumped almost 21 inches of rain on Colonial Beach alone on the evening of September 8, while it stalled over the East Coast. Flooding the intersection of Colonial Ave. and Jackson St. waist high and washing out parts of Route 205 just past Wilkerson’s restaurant and a section just past the Mattox Creek Bridge, cutting off residents in Colonial Beach from the outside world for a day.  

However Colonial Beach wasn’t the only place that was cut off. About 50 families in Placid Bay were cut off for weeks and still only have one way in and out.

Placid Bay and Westmoreland Shores sustained heavy flooding, which was compounded by three of the seven man-made dams in Placid Bay Estates giving way during the flash flooding.  

Residents in the area were without water and sewer until the following Saturday when PBE Water Company announced that both systems where fully operational.

Roughly 50 stranded residents virtually cut of from civilization in Placid Bay Estates 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, was 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 of over 150 feet had washed out of the road.

Students in the isolated section of Placid Bay were unable to attend school. Families that had been separated during the storm, left cars on both sides of Lakeview Dr. The families banded together coordinating shopping trips walking the narrow path left on Lakeview Dr. and sharing car rides while workers tried to fill in the roadway.

A temporary dirt road was finished by 7 p.m. on Thursday Sept. 15, 2011. Cheers could be heard throughout the neighborhood when Lakeview Drive reopened.

Today, residents are feeling much safer now that the Westmorleland Sheriffs Office and the Placid Bay Civic Association have teamed up to form a community outreach program.

President of the Placid Bay Civic Association, John L. Johnson said, “We’re pleased to work with the sheriff. The response from community has been great. We’re looking forward to continue working together on this program.”

Johnson said, “We started this program after the damn went out in 2011 when about 50 families were stranded. The sheriff put in bicycle and foot patrols.”

Since then the community has come together and set goals. Johnson said, “Then we work towards achieving those goals. The major aspect of this is, we wanted to not only reduce crime, but we wanted to reduce the fear of crime. The checks that the sheriff has put in have been really good.”

The checks Johnson is referring to are traffic stops. The Sheriff’s Department has conducted traffic stops and have caught unlicensed drivers, intoxicated drivers and confiscated drugs. The Sheriff’s Department has also beefed up patrols through out the community.

Johnson said this community reach program has been more successful than a neighborhood watch program. “The community is very much in favor of it. We had our annual meeting last Saturday and got a report on the number of crimes, crime is down!” Johnson said.

Sheriff C.O. Balderson said, “We are just trying to form an outreach program with the community. The Sheriff’s Office and the community are working together to reduce crime. First Sergeant Danny Jones and Lieutenant Chris Hawkins have been in charge of patrol.”

Johnson said, “The community held a road work day recently, which brought out about 25 residents to cut limbs, clear drainage ditches and clean up the easements.”

The group plans to replace signage in the area to encourage people to call 911 and report any suspicious activity.

Johnson, who is one of the 50 residents cut off by the dam breaks said, “We are more of a community because we bonded together when we were stranded. The Dark Side is going well.”

The dams are also close to being replaced. Taxes have been raised to help pay for construction loans. Johnson said they expect to close on the loan in a week or so. The next step will be to take bids for the work and he anticipates construction will begin by mid summer.

Johnson said, “We also have money for road improvement. We have an excellent Road Committee, working with the county administrator to set priorities. We should see some major progress on the roads in this community very shortly.”

The association has also put a lot of money into Holly Way (previously referred to as Pot Hole Gulch) and has eliminated all the pot holes. Johnson said, “It is a smooth ride all the way.”

Johnson said efforts to clean up the road and easements, traffic stops and the willingness of residents and the Sheriffs Department to work together, are going a long way to uniting residents and bringing up moral since the disasters in the fall of 2011.

Linda Farneth

 

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