Rebuilding from Disaster: The Staunton Floods

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 3:18 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - On August 8th of 2020, the unthinkable happened in the city of Staunton.

That night, a storm moved over Staunton and stalled out dropping several inches of rain in just over an hour in Downtown Staunton which caused extreme flash flooding. Central Avenue looked like a rushing river.

A heavy thunderstorm had stalled out over Staunton causing serious flash flooding.
A heavy thunderstorm had stalled out over Staunton causing serious flash flooding.(WHSV)

“Water poured through the Wharf parking lot and a couple of cars actually floated in the road out there,” said Kurt Plowman, who witnessed the flood in person. “Every speaker in the place destroyed,” said Wavley Groves, the owner of Eccohollow Art and Sound. “It was bad. Bad, bad,” John Matheny, co-owner of a Staunton restaurant said.

The flooding stretched from downtown to Gypsy Hill Park.

“The west end of the park from there forward all the way to the Duck Pond bandstand area we received significant damage,” director of parks and recreation Chris Tuttle said.

Chicano Boy Taco was one of the many businesses impacted. During the flood, employees were clinging to trees and the manager was on the roof. The community quickly came together to help anyone affected.

“Sunday morning it was like every musician in Staunton came out to help and it was amazing and all up and down the street, everyone was helping. No one had to ask,” Groves said.

Despite the situation, Chicano Boy Taco reopened about ten days after the flood.

“The challenge was getting back open, and now we are here to feed you,” said Justin Hershey, owner of Chicano Boy Taco.

Some other businesses didn’t reopen for months. Staunton is no stranger to flooding, but this was different.

“What we had in place, it didn’t seem adequate even though we constantly maintain them. It was just a lot of water,” said John Glover, building official, and flood plain adminsistrator.

The flash flooding amounted to $3.1 million in damages for the 164 properties that were affected. It was up to the community to come together to rebuild. The Community Foundation in Staunton did its job by “fundraising and shepherding those resources,” said Dan Layman, CEO of the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge.

10 months later, the city has re-built and is stronger than ever.

“I still have some work to do but the main part of the business and the record store is better than ever,” Groves said. “Having a previous event no matter how traumatic under your belt, not only heightens your awareness of what’s going on but certainly in the back of my mind this is a city that can respond,” said Jeff Johnston, director of public works for the City of Staunton.

The city is almost done with all repairs and people are more prepared if this were to happen again.

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