As Florence slows to a crawl, dumping more and more rain to deadly effect on the eastern part of the state and leaving Surry County to wait for its share of the misery, some people are hunkered down waiting for the storm.
Others are taking a different approach.
Shortly after noon on Saturday, Main Street was largely devoid of the usual pre-autumn throngs of tourists, with the sidewalks almost empty. Traffic on the streets was light, but even in the face of approaching storm and floods, there was traffic on the Ararat River.
The “Brew Crew,” consisting of Christopher Brewer, Jonathon Brewer and Elly Howatt of Mount Airy, along with friend Carlos Campos, used Saturday as a practice day to get in a kayaking run on the Ararat River. But what they are really waiting for are the torrential rains to come that will make it possible to kayak waterways that are normally too shallow and rocky to be navigable.
“We need at least four inches of rain to go where we want to go,” said Christopher Brewer.
With the National Weather Service predicting seven to 12 inches, that shouldn’t be a problem. That is, if the rain comes soon enough. Brewer has to get back to work on Monday.
“Most people would say we’re crazy,” said Brewer. “And if you don’t know what you’re doing and the water you’re in, they would be right. But I spend a lot of time training myself and my kids to be safe. We’re out here three or four times a week.”
According to Brewer, kayaking is always risky, but you can mitigate the danger by knowing the water and what it presents.
“Otherwise, you’re going to lose your boat, or your gear, or your life.”
Brewer said he knew the Mount Airy section of the Ararat well, and was, in fact, the first person to list it online as a paddling destination. On Sunday, when flooding from Florence is expected to bring water levels up to flood stage and beyond, the Brew Crew will be traveling with a “fully expert group” on another waterway, a swollen creek not ordinarily navigable.
What to expect
Dennis Sleighter with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia, said on Saturday that hurricanes are large systems that affect regions, making it difficult to pin down what a specific county might expect.
“It all depends on what the ultimate track of the storm is,” said Sleighter. “Areas that are east of the track will get more precipitation than areas that are west of it. Everyone looks at the middle, but it’s important to look at the broader brush.”
Surry County is on the eastern side of the track, according to Sleighter, and will experience the heaviest rainfall during the Sunday and Monday time period.
“That part of the state should expect rainfall ranging from seven to 12 inches,” said Sleighter.
He said the eastern part of the county would be on the lower end of that estimate as terrain affects the impact of the storm. More precipitation will fall along ridges and at higher elevations.
“The main story here,” said Sleighter, “is that with this much rain, there will be flash floods, landslides and river flooding. When you get to these quantities, it doesn’t make much of a difference if it’s 10 inches (as predicted Friday) or 12 (as predicted on Saturday).
“It might get kind of rough over the next three days,” said Surry emergency services director John Shelton on Saturday.
“We’re on a flood watch now, and it’s going to go on for 72 hours.”
The county had already experienced eight wind events on Friday and one more Saturday morning. Shelton defined wind events as downed trees and power lines.
When the rains began in earnest Saturday afternoon, Shelton said, “It’s just a matter of time now.”
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.