The rain began on Friday night, soaking Hampshire High School’s graduation.
A coastal low kept funneling moisture from the Atlantic so by the time the clouds broke Sunday, parts of Hampshire County had been drenched by 7 inches of rain.
The flood of June 1-3 last year wasn’t 2018’s first (that dubious honor goes to an April 14-15 downpour), but it was the worst in a rain of misery from Hampshire County’s wettest year ever.
Twelve months later, federal disaster relief funds are only beginning to arrive in the county.
“It was so sudden,” said Brian “Tad” Malcolm, who runs Hampshire County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, “and we’ve still got a lot of people who haven’t recovered fully from it.”
That includes the congregation at Capon Chapel Church of the Brethren,
Last year Hopkins Lick Run was diverted at the 115-year-old church as debris blocked a culvert under the bridge on Little Cacapon Levels Road about 50 yards away.
The raging run surrounded the building and spilled into a neighboring field, destroying a shed and severely damaging the church’s pavilion. Blacktop laid down in the parking lot only 5 years earlier crumbled and was washed away. The bridge over the culvert was destroyed, closing the road to Levels.
Thankfully, water never made it into the church sanctuary, though the newest additions of the building took on water in hallways, the foyer and a bathroom.
Today, the church building is back in full use, but the parking lot remains a mess and the pavilion is still unusable.
“There are ruts and big ol’ humps,” church member Beverly Malcolm says. “Trustees are looking at having a bulldozer come in and level it.”
The West Virginia Conservation Agency spent about 2 weeks hauling out 1,000 cubic yards of woody debris that had collected near Capon Chapel. The WVCA restored the capacity of the stream, clearing a 1,000-foot section of the affected area.
Temporary fixes came quickly as the waters receded, from a missing lane of Capon River Road to a crumbled roadway that shut down the Bloomery Pike for a couple of days.
But permanent solutions are just now being funded.
“We just got word from Charleston last week to go ahead to get a consultant to do the design” to replace the culverts that collapsed under the Bloomery Pike in the northeast corner of the county, said Lee Thorne, chief engineer for the Division of Highways’ District 5. “We’ll probably replace with bridges rather than the arches.”
Still outstanding is the go-ahead from Charleston for slide repair projects. Those include pilings in 2 places along Capon River Road, another on Okonoko Road along the Potomac and a 4th on Croston River Road, Thorne said.
“Our heavy maintenance forces have done what they could with rock stabilization,” Thorne said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is funding repairs along the creek bed behind the Hampshire County Health Department in Augusta and for an access road to a radio tower in Bloomery, both damaged by the 2018 flooding.
In all, the federal government designated $1.8 million last July to disaster relief in Hampshire County, the lion’s share of $4.5 million allotted the 8 Eastern Panhandle counties in the wake of the flooding.
All the money was designated for government agencies and qualifying nonprofits, not individuals. Funds could pay fully to repair damage and in part for mitigation – work to try to prevent future damage.
For example, some mitigation funds will pay for extra stone to reduce damage behind the Health Department and to raise the road to the radio tower.
DOH says it’s better prepared for future disasters after what it learned in 2018. More rock has been stockpiled and better procedures are in place to get rock delivered to jobsites.
Big-ticket items like box culverts will still take some time to get in place because they’re too costly to stockpile.
For every stretch of Bloomery Pike or Cacapon River Road that is seeing work done, others remain as they were a year ago.
Milleson’s Mill Road, Wapocomo Road, Gaston Road and Taylor Road all were still impassable 3 days after the storm.
Other reminders from a year ago:
The South Branch crested at Springfield at 17.5 feet around 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 3. That was just shy of what the National Weather Service calls “moderate” flooding. It was back in its banks by 10 a.m. the next day.
At the Great Cacapon reporting station, the Cacapon River crested at 16.24 feet shortly before midnight Sunday night, right at moderate flooding.
The Potomac rose barely above the 25-foot flood stage at Paw Paw around 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
The water rescue squads from Romney and Springfield did their job 3 times between Friday and Sunday and spent the next 2 days in Jefferson County, helping out there.
At one point, all roads into Paw Paw were closed.
Crews had to use a grader to divert water near The River House in Capon Bridge.
The end of the annual sheriff’s kids camp came earlier and in a different locale from the rest of the weekend. Kids were moved from Camp Rim Rock on Capon River Road to the Capon Valley Ruritan Building in Yellow Spring for their parents to pick them up.