Madison Remembers Flood

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

June 27, 2005

Thunderstorms may be in the forecast, but it won't compare to the rainfall 10 years ago. A Charlottesville Newsplex reporter spoke with a homeowner who survived the Madison Flood of 1995.

"It wasn't any fun because we didn't know if there was going to be a third slide or if the house was going to stand another slide. It was pretty nerve-racking," said Randall A. Lillard, flood survivor.

Lillard lost his home and most of his business in the Rapidan Flood. More than 2.5 feet of rain poured in 14 hours. His house was hit by two landslides. The kitchen broke off with the first slide.

"It was just like a train hit the house, it was in seconds," said Lillard.

His wife left the kitchen just before it washed away an estimated 35 feet.

"She just barely got out without getting trapped," said Lillard.

There were initially eight buildings on the property, but after the flood, only one, the storage house, survived.

"A flood like this happens [once] every 2,000 to 3,000 years," said Dr. Scott Eaton, Associate Geology Professor at James Madison University.

The water actually stripped the earth, exposing old trees and pollen that no longer exist in the area, giving scientists clues to what the land looked like thousands of years ago.

"So this event has allowed us to actually extrapolate or actually interpolate what the earth's history used to be like during the ice age. 20,000 years ago this part of Virginia was a lot like central Canada," said Eaton.

There was one fatality from a landslide and several people drowned. People lost homes, livestock, and businesses. Eaton cautioned that large floods, although not always so destructive, happen about once a decade in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Madison Board of Supervisors adopted a Resolution to honor people and agencies that gave their assistance in the flood.

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