Washed out: Flood slices popular road

A recent day-long rain spelled the end of part of West Leigh Drive, a popular cut-through between Route 250 and Owensville Road near Ivy, and nearly killed the occupants of a car that plunged into the drink.

On Thursday, March 20, raging waters turned Little Ivy Creek into something not so little, and according to witnesses, overpowered the culvert that had carried water under the road for more than 30 years. In moments, a 10-foot-wide trench appeared and filled with water at least six feet deep.

Sally Thomas, an Albemarle Supervisor who lives adjacent to the scene, wasn't at home when the road washed out, but her husband was. She says he didn't realize the road was ripped– until he saw a Volvo fall into the little pond. He dialed 911, and emergency personnel quickly arrived. According to Lee Catlin, spokesperson for the County, the 1995 Volvo sustained about $10,000 in damage, but the driver, the lone occupant, was uninjured in the 4pm accident.

The flood came almost exactly a month after rain and melting sleet trapped another car in that spot. On Saturday, February 22, firefighters in an inflatable motorized boat rescued those occupants.

Ironically, West Leigh Drive– built as a private subdivision road the 1970s– was mere months away from a major renovation that might have prevented the accidents. VDOT took over the road two years ago, says Thomas, and has contracted with Atkins Excavating Inc. of Greenville to bring the road up to state standards.

VDOT spokesperson Jim Jennings says the road upgrade had been slated for a May mobilization; however, the official "notice to proceed" had not been issued. Jennings says that because the project is now considered an emergency situation, "We said, 'Hey, let's do it now.'"

The only hold-up right now, Jennings notes, is for the County to move a nearby water line. Until that happens, "road closed" signs and reflective barricades will prevent other drivers from taking a perilous plunge.