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Flooding kills 3 in Va., makes roads impassable

- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2011

RICHMOND — Floodwaters triggered by rains from Tropical Storm Lee's remnants have submerged roads and killed three people in Virginia, including a Courtland woman who drowned after her car sank in a swamp.

State police say 48-year-old Paula Horner was driving on Va. 35 about 2:30 a.m. Friday in Southampton County when her car hit standing water and veered into the swamp. A passenger escaped, but Horner was trapped and drowned in the submerged car. The road and several others in the county remained impassable Friday because of flooding, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

A Fairfax County man died Thursday when rising waters trapped his car and a 12-year-old Fairfax County boy was swept away by an overflowing creek in his back yard.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesman Bob Spieldenner said that there were no large-scale evacuations because of flooding, but he said several communities suggested that people leave their homes in certain neighborhoods or residents got out voluntarily, such as in Fairfax County's Huntington area.

The National Weather Service said a flood warning was in effect through Saturday night for the Nottaway River in the Southampton County, Isle of Wight and Suffolk area, and the Blackwater River above Franklin. Minor flooding was expected, the weather service said.

Scores of roads remained closed in many counties Friday, primarily east of Interstate 95 from Fairfax down to Southampton County.

In Westmoreland County, a long stretch of Va. 3 — the main artery running from Fredericksburg to the Chesapeake Bay — was completely washed out, and many other roads also were impassable, Assistant County Administrator Karen Lewis said. A small bridge and two subdivision dams washed away and a sewer line broke.

Ms. Lewis said there were numerous water rescues and several injuries Thursday evening. Three swiftwater rescue teams arrived from other communities to assist.

In the Westmoreland town of Colonial Beach, the relentless rain left some streets under up to 4 feet of water, forcing drivers to leave their cars in the road. No injuries were reported, and all streets were passable again Friday. Several roads leading to the town, however, weren't.

"The main thing now is people trying to go to work," Police Chief Kenneth Blevins said. "Some businesses haven't opened because their employees can't get to work because of the roads."

Fortunately, the rains didn't cause tidal flooding from the nearby Potomac River, Chief Blevins said.

New Kent County officials reported that a small dam burst Friday morning east of Providence Forge, flooding U.S. 60 with up to 5 feet of water and rendering the road impassable for several hours. No injuries were reported. County schools remained closed Friday because so many streets and roads were flooded and buses were unable to transport children to school.

In Caroline County, acting Fire Chief Mark C. Garnett said 23 low-lying roads were shut down because of high water or washouts, especially east of U.S. 301. Rescue officials helped about 10 motorists in stranded vehicles in high water, but no injuries were reported.

The fire station in the county's Sparta community flooded, and trucks had to be relocated. Officials continued to monitor how earthen dams were holding up.

Some Caroline residents voluntarily left their homes but there were no official evacuations, Chief Garnett said.

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