WEST JEFFERSON-Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill spent the latter half of last week keeping a close eye on a storm system forecasters promised would dump tremendous amounts of rain on the High Country.
And it did. Just not as much as the National Weather Service first thought.
“I’m glad they changed the forecast,” Gambill said Saturday morning. “They had me worried when the senior meteorologist at Blacksburg referred to it as ‘a once in a career hydrological event.’ It may well be to the south of us but I’m glad it’s not here.”
Portions of the eastern seaboard, notably the coasts of North and South Carolina, were flooded by what turned out to be a glancing blow by Hurricane Joaquin.
Including this weekend, the majority of Ashe County received between eight and 10 inches of rain over the past two weeks, but we may have dodged a bullet as portions of Watauga, Wilkes and Alleghany Counties received more than 12 inches of rain, with isolated areas receiving up to 14 inches of rain in 14 days, according to the National Weather Service.
Blue Ridge Electric reported only scattered power outages throughout the weekend, with never more than a handful of customers affected at any time.
The weather did push many long planned events to later dates – or forced their cancellation altogether.
The Ashe County High School varsity football team’s game against Wilkes Central was moved to Monday night.
But the big loser may have been the Ashe County High School Husky Vanguard Marching Band. The group’s annual Festival of Bands, scheduled for Oct. 3, was scrubbed from this year’s calendar altogether due to the soggy conditions.
“It’s disappointing but we really couldn’t ask those other bands to come up here and perform in the rain as bad as it was,” Zach Fulbright, Ashe County High School’s band director, said. “And because of the way the other schools’ schedules line up, it’s not something we could just postpone.”
That’s bad news for the band because the festival is one of its major money raisers. Fulbright said the festival’s cancellation means his students and band boosters will have to redouble their fundraising efforts throughout the remainder of the year.
And while the rains swelled the New River and forced it over low-water bridges throughout the county, the downpour never brought it close to flood stage, according to the NWS.
The South Fork of the New River near Jefferson crested at just under 7 feet on Sept. 29, and never topped more than 6.4 feet over the weekend. Flood stage for that section of river is listed as eight feet.
So how does that rank against the all-time storms to pound Ashe County? Not even close. Most recently, the river crested at more than 10 feet in January of 2013, the eighth highest mark ever reported locally.
Rainfall during Hurricane Frances, which hit Western North Carolina hard in September 2004, pushed the New River to more than 11.7 feet but that mark is only the sixth highest in recorded history.
The catastrophic 1940 flood, the result of a slow moving category two hurricane dumping more than 15 inches of rain on parts of the High Country, pushed the New River to 22.5 feet in August 1940.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-846-7164 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.