All Washed Up. Or Out.

It has not been a quiet week at Lake Wobegon–or at Goose Creek.

Ann walked the last mile from town yesterday. A very large, very dead hemlock had fallen across the road; another fell as we approached. The car beyond the roadblock was full of groceries. We carried them home, and a couple of hours later, VDOT had cleared the trees, and we got the car back to the house.

The plan for this morning was to set out not much after 5 am (wife due at work an hours drive away at 7) in both cars, me in the lead with the chain saw.

At 5 am dark, the water was high by the roar of it, but we’ve heard it worse. We called VDOT (bless them) and confirmed the road between here and the interstate was passable. They had no idea about the condition of the “gravel” road between our house and the hardtop. Not good.

Less than a mile from the house, it was looking just fine, by local standards. No new trees down, not too much water running in the road to prevent us from moving forward. Until…

The road is completely washed out heading east, and the low water bridges still well submerged heading west. What trees or washouts might exist going up the dreaded high side, we’ll have to walk (1.7 miles) to determine. My guess is that we’re home bound for days. Wife and her co-workers are in a tail-spin. Domestic tranquility is not to be had.

The winds still rage, the ground is saturated, the road is flanked both directions by old, dead, large and leaning hemlocks, waiting for just a few more gallons of water to soak into their punky trunks before they fall.

On the other hand, we could live in a boring, suburban condo with nothing but neon-lined pavement between home and work. Tough call at this point.

UPDATE: we have since gone to fetch our cars. Turning them around was a challenge, to put it mildly. We could see in the light of day that a very large tree along the creekbank had fallen (not across the road, obligingly) and all the associated debris had blocked the usual flow of the creek, and re-routed it into the roadbed. The former roadbed.

For a couple of hundred yards, it would have been marginally passable in a 4WD vehicle. Then, comes the car-swallowing chasm where the creek found a notch back into its banks, and lowered the road to that level, and then some. I was glad we scouted it on foot with flashlights before going any farther.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. A little of your rain would be most appreciated in our very dry area. We’ve been in severe drought for nearly two years, now. I don’t envy your wallow in the mud, though.

  2. Sounds like a good time to hunker down and enjoy the solitude. This is a normal part of life in most rural areas, ours being no exception here in New England. During the ice storm of O8 we were without power for a couple of weeks and had 2 or 300 trees fallen down across our road . Took me two days of chainsaw work to finally meet another fella who was doing the same thing. I t was then we both realized that we weren’t going anywhere. Life is fun.