Rain, flooding create ‘commute from hell’

Northbound I-95 has been a mess because of a crash. (Courtesy of VDOT)
Old Church Road in Prince William County completely flooded on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (Courtesy Prince William County)
Debris on Valley View Road and Kettle Run on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (Courtesy Prince William County)
Kelly Weiser, who is dressed for work and carrying a backpack, gets out of a Prince William County rescue boat after he drove his pickup into flooded waters on Piper Lane. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)
A rescue crew goes to help a pickup truck driver who stalled on Piper Lane after driving into an area that flooded. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)
Piper Lane was shut down after it flooded. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)
Most drivers did not venture into the standing water on Piper Lane. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)
A level 3 emergency was declared in the Lake Jackson community in Prince William County after rising water levels at the dam set off alarms and caused security concerns.

WASHINGTON – It was a harrowing day for commuters in the D.C. area after a morning of wet weather, crashes, flooding and forced evacuations in one county.

The confluence of hazards created what one driver described as the morning “commute from hell.”

School bus routes were canceled in Prince William County Tuesday afternoon due to flooding on many of the area roads.

Phil Kavits, communications director for Prince William County schools, said while schools opened on time, buses had a hard time getting to some students in the Brentsville area because roads were flooded.

Lake Jackson flooding

A level 3 emergency was declared in the Lake Jackson community in Prince William County and two homes were evacuated. The move came after rising water levels reached 6 feet above the dam. Rising water set off alarms and caused concern about the dam’s stability.

The evacuations were a precautionary measure and no damage or injuries were reported. Around 2 p.m., fire officials said the water appeared to be receding.

The National Weather Service had issued a flood warning Tuesday morning for urban areas and small streams in the Prince William County area.

A flood warning means that flooding is imminent or has been reported.

Numerous roads in Fauquier and Prince William counties remained closed Tuesday afternoon due to flooding after 4 inches of rain fell earlier in the day.

Fatal accidents on Interstate 95

Two people died in separate crashes during Tuesday morning’s commute.

Virginia State Police say Kevin L. Mullins, 36, of Stafford Va., died at the scene of a three-car crash on I-95 just south of the Dale City exit shortly before 8 a.m. At least one other person was taken to the hospital in that incident.

The northbound lanes were closed for nearly two hours following the accident.

Around 4:31 a.m., Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne N. Geller says one person died when the driver of a 2006 Ford E350 Econoline van lost control of the vehicle in the southbound lanes of I-95 in Prince William County.

The van ran off the left side of the highway, hit the guardrail and overturned at least two times, police say. The van came to rest on its side.

Marciso A. Campos, 43, of Alexandria, died at the scene of that wreck.

Police say there were nine passengers and one driver in the van, all adult men. Three passengers were ejected in the crash. Campos, who was killed, and two others who were taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Five other passengers were injured in the wreck, none life-threatening. They were taken to a hospital for treatment.

One passenger was not injured and refused treatment.

The driver of the van, Job J. Diaz-Lemus, 29, of Gaithersburg, was wearing his seatbelt. He was charged with reckless driving after an investigation found he was driving too fast for the road conditions. It was raining heavily at the time of the crash.

WTOP listener Phuong Doan shot this video of the northbound I-95 crash scene:

In a separate incident, in the back-up to the southbound I-95 accident, a box truck struck a gas tanker near Dale City, spreading debris across the highway.

Additionally, a tree fell on Interstate 395 north near King Street in the Alexandria area, creating major traffic delays.

Trouble getting to VRE

Commuters trying to get to Virginia Railway Express’ Broad Run station Tuesday morning found they had to take another route after Broad Run overran its banks.

Piper Lane off Va. 28, the most popular route drivers take to get to VRE’sBroad Run station in Manassas, had to be shut down.

Before it closed, commuters found themselves stopping just short of the high water trouble spot that stretched nearly a mile.

A single traffic cone marked the trouble spot.

WTOP’s Hank Silverberg, who was on the scene near the VRE station, said drivers going 35 mph jammed on their brakes to avoid going into the water. There were near-misses Tuesday morning and one water rescue.

Kelly Weiser didn’t heed warnings people were giving not to drive through the water.

His pickup stalled out. A log also hit the truck totaling it. The water was so high the cab of the 4-by-4 truck got wet.

Prince William County Fire and Rescue helped Weiser out of the high water, who admits to WTOP he was “embarrassed” by what happened.

Weiser’s rescue wasn’t the first for Prince William County Fire and Rescue. Another driver was rescued from high standing water at Route 28 and Aden Road in Bristow.

Prince William County roads that are closed

While a flash flood warning for Prince William and other counties expired early Tuesday morning, the rains left a number of roads impassable. The following roads are still affected, according to the Prince William County Police:

  • Bristow Road from Lucasville Road to Windy Hill Drive
  • Rt. 624S (Prince William County) Little River Road
  • Rt. 649S (Prince William County) Old Church Road
  • Rt. 624N (Prince William County) Little River Road
  • Rt. 611N (Prince William County) Valley View Drive
  • Rt. 649N (Prince William County) Old Church Road
  • Rt. 611S (Prince William County) Valley View Drive

Police offer these tips during flooding:

  • Avoid underpasses, underground parking garages and basements during or after heavy rains.
  • Don’t try to cross flowing streams.
  • Don’t drive through flooded roadways. The road may be washed away and just 6 inches of water can stall a vehicle.
  • Move to higher ground, if your vehicle stalls.

Rainfall totals and forecast

Forecasters say Manassas saw 4 inches of rain and Bristow, 3.32 inches. Gaithersburg recorded 0.63 inches of rain and the District just 0.04 inches

The forecast Tuesday calls for more rain, with a few breaks of sun. Temperatures are expected to reach 77 to 82. Look for more showers overnight, with a low of 60.

Wednesday will bring a mix of clouds and sun, and more thunderstorms are anticipated. Wednesday’s high will be 82.

WTOP’s Hank Silverberg contributed to this story. Follow Hank and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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