- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday declared a state of emergency as more storms are forecast for parts of Virginia already soaked by summer rains, and Hurricane Joaquin poses an additional threat as it makes its way to the East Coast.

The Executive Order, retroactive to Tuesday, allows emergency responders to begin to prepare for the storms.

McAuliffe cautioned Virginians of the potential of devastating weather.

“I cannot stress enough the imperative for Virginians to focus on the rainstorms that are headed our way tomorrow and Friday, well before Hurricane Joaquin could potentially impact Virginia,” he said.

The governor already was warning people on Wednesday not to drive through flooded areas if the rain comes. It remains too early to predict how much more rain could come because Joaquin’s exact path remains uncertain.

“Anything we get from the tropical system - or ahead of the tropical system - is going to exacerbate the already waterlogged conditions in the area,” said Mike Sporer, a National Weather Service forecaster in Roanoke.

On Tuesday, state officials said heavy rains caused flooding along 138 roads across the state.

The weather service said Blacksburg received 4.39 inches of rain, the most in one day since officials started keeping records in 1952.

In Lynchburg, where 3.1 inches of rain fell, a hillside collapse blocked a road.

In Salem, Fire Chief John Prillaman said water rescue teams removed 100 people from a low-lying apartment complex and trailer park as a precaution from the rising South Fork of the Roanoke River.

Wendell Johns lives alone in a trailer in Elliston, west of Roanoke. He went to stay at a sister’s house Tuesday night after floodwaters from the South Fork behind his property rose up in his yard.

Johns, 74, said he took “everything I had on my back” and an oxygen tank to help him breathe.

When he returned Wednesday, “there was mud, logs, everything was picked up and turned around,” he said. “Everybody’s trash is washed up in my yard.”

He said the water rose another 1.5 feet but never got into his trailer, which is set 4 feet above the ground in a flood zone.

“I’m in a mess right now,” Johns said. “All around my house looks like a lake.”

Nearby, Shannon Sledd waited out the storm in the house she shares with her disabled parents and her two sons. She estimated the floodwaters were 5 feet deep and rose up to her front door.

The inside of the home on higher ground was spared, but her parents’ garage on the lower level wasn’t. Her father lost a lawnmower, a golf cart, a refrigerator and freezer, and the flood ripped the hinges off propane tanks.

Both Sledd and Johns said flood insurance wouldn’t cover their losses.

“My mom and dad are really nervous,” Sledd said. “They’re calling for bad rains this weekend. We might have to get out.”


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