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Oct 15

Nature’s Fury and Beauty

Posted on October 15, 2018 at 3:07 PM by Whitney Slightham

This past week we witnessed nature at its worst and best.   First, we endured the remnants of Hurricane Michael and with it a bout of greater than anticipated flooding.  Then, the weather turned much more Autumn-like and many got to enjoy Go Fest and its celebration of all the great things the outdoors offers.

The Fury

Hurricane Michael roared ashore in Florida just a couple of miles per hour shy of being a Category 5 storm – intensifying much faster than originally predicted.  After the severe damage and loss of life caused in Florida, the storm continued to progress northeastward, seemingly a relatively safe distance from the Roanoke area.  The storm maintained a great deal of its strength as it progressed inland and was soon met by a cold front out of the west.  That’s when things started to turn for the worse in Virginia.  Largely spared  by strong winds, southern portions of the state were struck by torrential rainfall, especially in the area around Danville.  The storm soon reached the Roanoke area carrying much more intense rainfall than originally anticipated – dumping nearly 5 inches of rain in the Garden City area within just a few hours. 

Streets and properties that commonly flood in such heavy rains did in the City of Roanoke, Roanoke County, and the City of Salem.  A few areas flooded in spectacular fashion – the intersection of Franklin and Brandon in Roanoke City and Electric near Tanglewood in Roanoke County are two examples.  Some areas that would have flooded in the past, such as the area where Go Fest was held, did not, in part due to the flood improvements and property acquisitions that have occurred over the years. Thankfully no water rescues or assisted evacuations were needed in the City of Roanoke – though both were needed in Roanoke County and Salem.  Though there were areas of significant property damage, thankfully no lives were lost in the Roanoke area due to the flooding. Sadly, at least six elsewhere in the State were not so fortunate. 

Within hours of the storm, the Roanoke River crested as one of the highest readings in years, smaller creeks and streams returned to their banks, and the cleanup of basements, stores, and streets was underway.  Though some will be cleaning up for weeks, it was amazing how the fury left nearly as quickly as it arrived.

The Beauty

Though City personnel, residents, and business owners continued to clean up from the storm, by the next day thousands were gathering along the Roanoke River in River’s Edge Sports Complex for the annual Go OutsideFestival (Go Fest), which celebrates all the opportunities that exist in our area to enjoy nature in her kinder state.   Within the park one could learn, watch, or participate in a myriad of outdoor activities including hiking, climbing, biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and dog training.  There were plenty of opportunities to learn from others, purchase supplies, sign up for activities and test new equipment.  Of course, there was also food and beer to enjoy – it wouldn’t really be a Roanoke event otherwise, would it?

As I wandered around the festival, it was fun to note how many families attended.  It was enjoyable, not only to see so many adults learning about an important part of our regional economy and Roanoke’s high quality of life, but also to see so many young people get excited about being outside and doing something active. This interest bodes well for our region and for the continued protection and celebration of the natural areas we have in and around our great city.

So, within just a few short days, we witnessed nature at her scariest, and the beauty she offers.  Thankfully, Hurricane Michael’s impacts in Roanoke were not as severe as other regions. We will still hike, bike, swim, kayak, and climb in the beauty that surrounds us – perhaps a bit more aware of nature’s power.

- Bob Cowell


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