Wet and Wicked Weather in Western Virginia – Part 3

We are now entering Virginia’s season of uncertain weather – hurricane season. While our state (particularly the idyllic western side) often avoids the brunt of the East Coast hurricanes, there have been plenty of brutal exceptions that have ravaged western Virginia. I’m especially remembering one that struck almost exactly twenty-five years ago: Hurricane Fran.

In 1996, I was but a young middle-school aged lad, growing up in peaceful Page County in the northern Shenandoah Valley. However, the days of September 6-7 will forever be etched upon my memory. During those days, the weakening storm dumped over 15 inches of rain while it crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, with high winds and storms. The creek that cut through town turned into a raging river, with sixteen foot deep flood waters that swept away buildings – including one house that was swept off its foundations and carried over 200 yards onto the football field of the local high school. I still remember our own yard strewn with trees torn up by the roots, our little country road gouged and washed out by the flooding of the adjacent creek – and a telephone pole crashing down across the road just seconds after my Dad pulled in the driveway from work. 

A total of seven people died across the state in Hurricane Fran, along with hundreds of homes destroyed. In North Carolina, where the hurricane made landfall, six more died and billions more dollars in damage was done.

It is also almost exactly 16 years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in one of our country’s deadliest disasters, claiming over 1,800 lives and submerging 80% of the city under massive storm surge and flood waters. Today over 100 people still remain categorized as missing from Katrina.

As the country deals with the effects of Hurricane Ida and waits for the next storm of the season to materialize, California burns, Haiti lies in ruins, and Covid returns with a vengeance, one thing is for sure: weather – and life – isn’t getting any more certain. As few catastrophes as I remember from my childhood, chances are my kids will have quite a few more to remember. That sounds like a downer, but maybe it’ll motivate us to care for our world better, reach out to others suffering all across it, and find a secure place to store up lasting treasure.


Tim Carr

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