Installation quickly responds to flood
September 16, 2011
Heavy rainfall flooded several areas throughout the installation and surrounding region Sept. 8.
According to a National Weather Service report, Fort Belvoir received seven inches of rain in a three hour period. That's a 0.1 percent chance of seeing that type of rainfall hitting the area in that time frame in any given year.
High water levels led to power outages, trapped vehicles, and fallen trees among other issues around the installation.
"The installation reacted well to an unexpected flash flood," said Frank Hentschel, Directorate of Emergency Services deputy director. "I don't think we were overwhelmed. We prioritized our calls and respondent accordingly."
Hentschel said DES had a slight advantage in responding to the situation because they began hourly checks of the area Thursday around 1 p.m.
DES checked likely flooding areas such as Accotink Bay and River village.
The big problem was that water levels rose faster than anticipated.
"It was very difficult to get from point A to point B. You're bound to run into a flooded road," Hentschel said.
Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security officials said the emergency operations center began receiving phone calls of high waters around 6:30 p.m., Sept. 8.
Belvoir peninsula, which is filled with small creeks in addition to surrounding bodies of water, was flooded with water on both sides.
The flash flooding also created numerous problems throughout the region on roads such as Route 1 and Route 7100.
According to DPTMS officials, there was about a three hour period when accessing the base was very difficult.
Hentschel said the garrison manned additional gates during the evening to provide people with ways to travel on and off the installation.
The flooding caused significant damage to numerous areas around post.
Davidson Army Airfield received significant damage on Ehlers Road which leads to the airfield's gate. Personnel entering DAA must now use the Bravo Gate on Route 1.
There was also mild flood damage to a few homes and other buildings on post.
DPTMS said Fort Belvoir residents did a great job of helping each other throughout the situation. They offered shelter, food and equipment to other residents and first responders.
Through all the challenges, Hentschel was pleased to see that there was no panic throughout the installation. Respondents helped with power outages, debris and trapped vehicles.
Hentschel said people without power were very patient and cooperative throughout the ordeal.
He estimated that the installation returned to normal operations in about 24 hours after the flooding took place.
The garrison issued an unscheduled leave policy for the Friday after the flooding. Tenant organizations had to contact their supervisors with questions on their duty status.
Travis Edwards, Public Affairs Office chief of media relations, said Fort Belvoir's Facebook page was a very useful tool for keeping people informed throughout the situation.
"We were able to direct information and put it on Facebook immediately, which helped people find ways to get in and out of gates," Edwards said.
Personnel also used the social media site to communicate any issues they face on post which helped respondents find additional problem areas.
Hentschel said the lesson from the storm was that people need to be more prepared for flash flooding.
He would like to see more rescue devices and additional personnel on hand to be fully capable to handle strenuous conditions created by natural disasters.
He also encourages motorist to exercise good judgment.
He said driving through flooded roads leads to fatalities because people get trapped and drown in the water.
"The problem with standing water is even though it appears to be shallow," Hentschel said, "you don't know what's washed out underneath."