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This is all that's left of Bob White Covered Bridge, a historic landmark in the Woolwine area since 1921. The bridge washed out in the heavy rain that fell Tuesday, added to almost a week of continuing showers. (Photo by Doug Perry)
Flood destroys covered bridge
By Nancy Lindsey
After six days of rainfall ranging up to 16 inches in Patrick County, streams and rivers overflowed their banks Tuesday morning and caused widespread damage to roads, homes, businesses and farmland.
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency in the county, at the recommendation of Steve Allen, emergency management coordinator.
No serious injuries were reported, but Allen and volunteers set up an emergency shelter at Rotary Field to provide temporary housing to residents of Cedar Square Apartments in Stuart, where a mudslide damaged buildings. The shelter was closed and the families returned home by mid-afternoon Tuesday.
The American Red Cross could not be reached for comment on the impacts of the flood.
Residents of Riverside Drive in Stuart left their homes when the South Mayo River overflowed its banks and floodwaters rose to levels as high as three feet inside houses, according to Sheriff Dan Smith.
Smith and three deputies--Oscar Tejeda, Ronnie Williams, and Chase Meredith--along with Stuart Town Manager Terry Tilley, helped evacuate the residents of Riverside Drive and also rescued some pets from their pens to prevent them from potential drowning.
Smith said he was told by one resident, who climbed up the wooded hillside behind the six houses, that an elderly man was still inside his home.
Smith waded through waist-deep water on the first floor and found the 77-year-old man stranded on the top level. The sheriff helped the frightened man climb down a ladder on the back of the house and then go up the hill.
The Stuart Volunteer Fire Department and J.E.B. Stuart Rescue Squad were waiting, and the emergency medical technicians transported the man to Pioneer Community Hospital for treatment.
The most devastating loss, to many people, was the destruction of the 96-year-old state and national landmark, Bob White Covered Bridge in Woolwine.
The bridge, like the Jack's Creek Covered Bridge a mile away, was designed by Walter G. Weaver, who built Bob White with the help of his son, Ed Weaver, and built Jack's Creek with assistance from Charlie Vaughn, according to The History of Patrick County, Virginia.
The two covered bridges were among five known remaining public bridges in the commonwealth of Virginia. (Three historic covered bridges are located on private property).
The Bob White Covered Bridge, an 80-foot timbered bridge spanning the Smith River, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Both bridges were sources of pride to the community of Woolwine, which has held many fund-raisers to provide matching funds for state and federal grants to renovate and preserve them.
The covered bridges were also the centerpieces of the annual Virginia Covered Bridge Festival held each June at the two sites on the Smith River, with one of the favorite activities being rides in wagons drawn by mules or horses between the two bridges and through Bob White. (Jack's Creek is not considered sturdy enough to handle the traffic.)
The Jack's Creek Covered Bridge, which was 100 years old in 2014, was apparently not harmed by the flooding.
The picnic shelter at the Smith River Church of the Brethren, located near the Bob White bridge, was heavily damaged.
No damage estimates were available Tuesday afternoon, but photos show roads with large chunks carved out of them by floodwaters, and homes and businesses sustained heavy damage.
Many roads in the county were closed during the height of the flooding Tuesday morning, including Rt. 58 west from Hall Propane to the intersection with Rt. 8 at Howell's Store.
Schools opened as usual, but Blue Ridge Elementary School and Meadows of Dan Elementary School released their students at 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to Dean Gilbert, assistant superintendent of schools.
Students at the other five schools--Patrick County High School, Patrick Springs Primary School, Woolwine Elementary School, Stuart Elementary School, and Hardin Reynolds Memorial School--closed for the day at 2:30 p.m., Gilbert said.
The delay resulted from "a break in the rain," Gilbert said.
While individuals reported rainfall totals as high as 16 inches for the days between Thursday night and Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service in Blacksburg reported somewhat lower amounts.
Thursday-to-Monday totals were: Slate Mountain, 3.56 inches; Circle M Zoo, 3.37 inches; Woolwine, 3.20 inches; Central Academy, 2.88 inches; Busted Rock, 2.68 inches; Meadows of Dan, 2.64 inches; Trot Valley, 2.5 inches; Stuart, 2.30 inches; Critz, 2.25 inches; and less than an inch at other locations.
For the 24 hours ending Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service reported the following totals: Circle M Zoo, 5.22 inches; Woolwine, 8.22 inches; Central Academy, 3.43 inches; Busted Rock, 3.41 inches; and Meadows of Dan, 2.68 inches. Amounts for other locations were not available.
The heavy rain also forced the closing of the last two nights of the Patrick County Agricultural Fair. The Demolition Derby has been rescheduled for Saturday, October 17 at 6 p.m.
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Floodwaters covered the picnic shelter and parking lot at Smith River Church of the Brethren. The Bob White Covered Bridge was located a short distance down the river. (Photo by Doug Perry)
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Hall Propane's tanks were knocked down by the floodwaters that turned Rt. 58 into a lake in the area west of Stuart. (Photo by Steve Allen)
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Bulldozers worked Tuesday to repair the damage to the entrance road to Riverside Drive in Stuart, where residents evacuated to escape the rising floodwaters (reminding some people of the same situation in the flood of 1979). (Photo by Stephen
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This sign at the intersection of Animal Clinic Road and Tudor Orchsard Rd. says it all: "Road closed--high water." (Photo by Gail Harding)
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The floodwaters covered the road at the Jack's Creek Covered Bridge, but did not destroy it. (Photo by Wendy Wood Sheppard)