Heavy rains swamp North Suffolk roads

Published 10:23 pm Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Flooding at the intersection of Nansemond Parkway and Shoulders Hill Road on Wednesday morning kept many employees from the Northgate Commerce Park from making it to work. Others had to be ferried in by truck.

Workers had the perfect excuse for not showing up Wednesday when the only road into Northgate Commerce Park flooded, prompting their bosses to question how the ongoing Nansemond Parkway widening project contributed to the watery fiasco.

Wanchese Fish Company was unable to open its cold storage department for the lack of able-bodied men and women, Vice President Joey Daniels said.

“I would say we probably got 16 (workers) in and are missing 20,” he said.

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The company used some of its large trucks to ferry stranded workers to their tasks, including employees from at least one other business.

They left their vehicles mere feet from the floodwaters in a church parking lot at the corner of the parkway and Shoulders Hill Road.

One worker from Suffolk Cold Storage, who did not wish to be named, was waiting disconsolately in the car-crowded parking lot about 8:30 a.m. Someone had blocked him in.

“You’d think they’d have a better plan than this,” he said, gazing across the water to a trio of police officers gazing back.

“We had some of our bigger trucks here, and one of my brothers went in and ferried the people in the back,” Daniels explained.

He said the intersection often floods when enough rain falls, cutting access to the business park.

The water had nowhere else to go once overflow ponds reached capacity, he said.

“In the future I think it will be fine, but there is still that much work to be done, and we are right in the middle of a rainy period,” he said.

Darrick LeMaster, distribution manager at American Condenser and Coil, said he and six colleagues hitched a ride to work in a Wanchese truck.

He said four other workers hadn’t been able to make it in, forcing the company to pare back operations considerably.

“We’re able to work some of the operations, but not to the efficient level that we need,” he said. “Before they started construction it would flood, but nothing compared to this magnitude. It’s affecting our business dramatically.”

A secondary road into the park would offer alternative access during flooding, and building the parkway “about two feet above where the flooding is” would also help, he said.

City Public Works Director Eric Nielsen said he is confident the flooding problem will be fixed when the installation of two 91-by 58-inch elliptical pipes is complete after the Hampton Roads Sanitation District installs a new force main by about October.

What occurred on Wednesday was a “one-in-10-year” flood event that still would have occurred with the upgrade, he said.

The rainfall in one North Suffolk neighborhood Tuesday night caused flooding significant enough to swamp cars in the parking lot of the College Square Townhomes and Apartments on Old College Drive, WAVY-TV 10 was reporting on Wednesday.