City spared major storm damage

Published 9:28 pm Friday, November 13, 2009

Following more than 36 hours of near-continuous wind and rain, Suffolk began to recover on Friday from the effects of the nor’easter that had battered the area since Wednesday evening.

When they awoke on Friday, most Suffolk residents found their yards littered with storm debris and their roads — or roads nearby — flooded. But their homes were still intact.

“The storm was not incredibly bad for the city of Suffolk,” city spokesperson Debbie George acknowledged Friday evening.

George said an assessment team performed an initial sweep of the city on Friday once flooding had subsided.

That team found only one home with major damage — caused by a tree that fell on it — along with a few that had suffered minor roof damage. One family had to be relocated because of flooding around their home on Thursday. The Bennett’s Creek Restaurant and Marina also flooded, she said.

The worst damage in Suffolk seemed to have been along the Nansemond River, where a surging tide and howling winds demolished the Ballard Clubhouse, one of two houses that sat on pilings above the river. By Friday morning, all that was left of the structure was the pilings sunk into the riverbed.

Many piers along the river suffered a similar fate, but George said city officials had not been able to conduct an assessment of the loss along the Nansemond or in the Kimberly area of the city, because they needed to do so by boat.

By Friday evening, George said, most of the flooding in the city’s urban areas had begun “dropping rapidly,” though unusually high tides were expected again Friday night.

She said city officials anticipated being able to open Main Street and Constance Road to through traffic late Friday evening.

The city’s schools also were spared major problems, according to school spokesperson Bethanne Bradshaw, who added that a few had suffered from leaky roofs.

Near-hurricane-force winds knocked out power to 335,000 customers — including more than 250,000 customers in the Hampton Roads area — according to a statement from Dominion Virginia Power. About 120,000 of those customers lost power during a two-hour period that began at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, when an intense period of wind and rain pounded the area.

Crews had restored service to about 180,000 of those customers early Friday, according to Dominion officials. Fewer than 500 customers in Suffolk were still without power by the end of the day on Friday.

“We are focused on getting the lights back on for our customers as safely and quickly as possible,” said Rodney Blevins, vice president of distribution for Dominion Virginia Power. “While we are well-prepared for storms, the scope and severity of the damage make this especially challenging.”

The company expected to have restored power to nearly all of its customers by Sunday night.