BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Unlike his Marvel superhero counterpart, Winter Storm Thor was anything but a good guy for Upshur County residents.
Many downtown streets were under 3 to 4 feet of water, including the area referred to as “The Y” at South Kanawha Street and Route 20 South, Buckhannon Street Commissioner Jerry Arnold said. In fact, Route 20 South was blocked, leaving Main Street and College Avenue as the best way to get from Buckhannon to Tennerton.
Mayor Rick Edwards declared a state of emergency early Thursday morning. Officials canceled a 7 p.m. City Council meeting. Meanwhile, the Upshur County Courthouse shut down early due to inclement weather.
“All residents are advised to keep vehicular traffic off of municipal streets if at all possible. Please do not go around stationed barricades. Most major streets around downtown have been barricaded due to flooding. City Hall is open for any resident to call, or concerns that residents may have,” Edwards said.
The Buckhannon River crested at 25.95 feet, 2.95 feet above minor flood stage, 0.95 feet above moderate flood stage and 0.05 feet below major flood stage, city engineer Jay Hollen said. “It was just right there on the edge,” he said.
In fact, the river crested much higher than the anticipated 23 feet. However, the waters were receding; by 11:45 a.m., the water was down to 25.68, Hollen said.
“We’re just trying to keep our heads literally above water and keep things afloat,” he said. “We’re just trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, open what we can and clear roads and sidewalks where we can, but high waters are preventing that in some areas.”
City street crews spent Wednesday evening and into Thursday morning setting up barricades as water began to flood many streets. In addition to Route 20 South and South Kanawha Street at “The Y,” Jawbone park and Madison Street were also under water. Florida Street, Kanawha Street, Locust Street, Meadow Street and many others were also experiencing high water, he said. Fifth Street and Cleveland Avenue were flooded in North Buckhannon.
The driver of a Corvette ignored the barricade around Madison and got stuck in the high water. The driver had someone with a truck pull the expensive vehicle out of the flood waters, officials said.
Overnight and into Thursday morning, officials had to go from flood-control mode to snow-removal mode as at least 8-10 inches of snow fell overnight.
“We had guys out most of last night and will again tonight. We always have people on call,” Arnold said.
The main concern for Thursday night was the expected below-zero temperatures. Thursday afternoon, Arnold said he hoped the waters receded significantly before the deep freeze Thursday night.
“If the water doesn’t recede quickly before we get that below zero feeze, we could have some real ice problems,” Arnold said.
In the meantime, “people need to be patient and stay away from those areas,” he said.
Arnold said he’s proud of his crew members, who were continuing to work diligently even as the snow continued to fall Thursday afternoon.
“I’m always biased when it comes to the guys we got working here at the city. All our city departments have good crews – crews that work no matter what the weather is. I just think they do a great job,” he said.
According to the National Weather Service, Friday was expected to come with higher temperatures and sunnier conditions. While this could mean high water due to melting snow, Hollen said he did not believe it would be as bad as Wednesday and Thursday because rain would not be a factor.