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Storm heading east
Flash flood warning issued for this area

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Keep a close eye on the weather today as a complex, slow-moving storm system will bring the potential for flooding and tornadoes to Southside.

A warm front arriving this morning is expected to raise temperatures from the lower 50s on Tuesday to the lower 70s today, but then a cold front will bring up to several inches of rain as well as thunderstorms.

Instability in the atmosphere is expected to be most intense this afternoon and evening, the National Weather Service reported.

Late Tuesday, weather service websites indicated a 30 percent chance of severe weather occurring within 25 miles of any given location in this area.

That is “a pretty good chance,” said Kris Mattarochia, a meteorologist with the weather service office in Blacksburg.

Any storm damage that occurs is likely to result from strong, straight-line winds, Mattarochia said.

But an isolated tornado or two “can’t be ruled out,” he said.

Based on what weather service officials told him, Martinsville Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Phillips said, the storm threat appears to be “nothing like” the large tornadoes that struck portions of the Deep South earlier this week.

Still, “we have a history of tornadoes and straight-line winds” locally, so any threat of severe storms always should be taken seriously, said Henry County Public Safety Director Rodney Howell.

The weather service has placed Henry County and Martinsville under a flash flood watch that is in effect until midnight tonight.

Expect 1-3 inches of rain across most of the area today, with as much as 5 inches possible in some locations. At such rates, rainfall could cause flooding along creeks and streams and in low-lying urban areas, forecasters said.

According to Phillips, areas of Martinsville with the most flooding potential include parts of Clearview Drive and the area around Jefferson Circle, Finley Street, Zee Street and Mulberry Road, where a creek flows through a park.

Part of Bridge Street near Memorial Boulevard used to be prone to flooding until a few years ago when the city improved drainage in the area. However, Phillips said it still is possible for that area to see a water buildup.

Potential trouble spots for flooding in Henry County include Carver Bottoms, Whitby Acres, Meeks Road near the North Carolina line and areas surrounding Blackberry Creek and along Reed Creek north of Bassett Forks, Howell said.

People planning to travel east, take note: In anticipation of heavy rain, the weather service already has issued flood warnings for parts of the Dan River from Danville to South Boston. At Danville, the river’s flood stage is 17 feet and meteorologists expect water to rise to around 23 feet by Thursday and then fall to below flood stage by Friday, a statement showed.

Forecasters and emergency officials advise motorists not to drive vehicles across flooded roads — water may be much deeper than it appears.

“It’s easy to get complacent where you’re familiar with the roads,” Phillips said. But what appears to be water covering a road could be “a deep ravine” where water has washed out the road and a car could get stuck.

Nevertheless, it does not take a lot of water standing in a road to make a car float, he said.

Ahead of the storms, emergency officials advise people to plan ahead for what they will do and where they will go if flooding or a tornado threatens.

If a tornado is approaching, go to a basement, interior room, closet or hall with no windows to keep away from broken glass and other debris that high winds blow around. Try to seek shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture for protection from debris or collapsed roofs.

Mobile homes and vehicles are not suitable shelter during tornadoes. Leave them immediately. If no other shelter exists, people should lie face down in a ditch and cover their heads with their hands for protection, officials advise.

Tornado and flood warnings will be broadcast by local radio and television stations and on NOAA Weather Radio. In Martinsville, sirens at the city’s two fire stations are sounded to alert residents to tornado warnings.

Henry County does not use sirens for tornado warnings.

Mattarochia said he sees no more potential bouts of severe weather in the immediate future, once this one is over.

Yet “this type of (storm) system is not uncommon,” he said.


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