Major flooding is now predicted for Blackwater; downtown braces

Published 12:26 am Sunday, August 28, 2011

A man wades through the water outside the Farm Bureau office on Business 58 in Courtland.

FRANKLIN—As Hurricane Irene churned through the Atlantic, officials spent much of the week downplaying the chances of another flood in downtown Franklin. Saturday night, the threat became real.

The National Weather Service now predicts a crest of 20.6 feet at 2 p.m. Monday — a level that would cause major flooding downtown. The river was expected to reach flood stage of 16 feet by 8 a.m. Sunday. Some downtown business owners had already begun removing computer equipment from their buildings late Saturday.

The expected crest of more than 20 feet is a big jump from the 17.2 feet that forecasters had predicted earlier in the day.

Franklin Fire and Rescue Capt. Tim Dunn said the city has not called for an evacuation of downtown but will continue to monitor the situation.

“We’re telling people to make their own decision on what they need to do,” Dunn said. “We’re going to let them assess things on their own.”

He said the dramatic increase in crest predictions throughout the day was caused by an increase in rainfall to the west and northwest of the area.

“It’s not a good thing,” Dunn said. “We’re hoping the forecasts are off.”

The 20.6-foot crest still would fall well short of the record of 26 feet in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Forecasters also raised their projected crest of the Nottoway River at Sebrell. It is now expected to crest at 20.1 feet at 2 p.m. Tuesday, just below the major flood stage of 22 feet.

Check back for regular updates on this developing story.