One year after Tropical Storm Michael roared through, Danville is still in the process of repairing its infrastructure.
The deadly Oct. 11, 2018, storm and its aftermath resulted in about $9 million in costs from damage to the city’s roads and sewer system, debris removal and emergency response, according to the latest estimates provided by Danville Public Works.
About 250 sites along roads and drainage areas sustained damages ranging from about $2,000 to about $1 million per site, Danville Public Works Director Rick Drazenovich said.
During the past year, city officials have focused on repairing the most significant damage.
“We’ve started on the ones with the most impact on the public,” Drazenovich said during an interview at the public works office.
Repairs to washed-out areas at Elizabeth Street, Third Avenue West and Audubon Drive at Apollo Street were all repaired early this year. Those areas sustained a total of about $2.6 million worth of damage.
Also, repairs were made to Grant Street in February totaling about $185,000.
As for reversing all of Michael’s damage to the city’s streets, it’s a long road ahead for officials.
“We’re going to be working on it a year from now,” Drazenovich said, adding he expects all 250 projects to be complete in about two or three years.
Such endeavors take time, the public works director said, because of permitting, the bidding process, design and construction — weather permitting.
Also, a new culvert must be installed at Haraway Road and Watlington Court, which will cost about $856,000.
“It will be a pretty big job,” City Engineer Brian Dunevant said.
Officials hope to start construction on the project in the spring. Though it’s a costly item, traffic is not currently impeded at the site.
Another needed repair from the storm includes a $725,000 project to replace a collapsed major storm water pipe underneath the oval running track at Cleveland Street next to Langston Focus School. Construction should begin in winter and end in the summer of 2020.
Though it’s been a year since Michael, not all the damage likely has been discovered.
“We’re still finding some damage,” Dunevant said.
Drazenovich echoed the sentiment: “We’re still finding places that are isolated.”
Of the $9 million spent to fix damages, about $5.8 million is expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $3.2 million by the Federal Highway Administration.
Danville Finance Director Michael Adkins estimated FEMA has already obligated about $3 million in reimbursement to the city, with more expected in the future. Almost $883,000 has been obligated by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, for a total of about $3.9 million so far.
The city has not received any of that money yet.
“It’s just going to take a little while to get here,” Adkins said.
“Engineering has submitted some repair projects to [the Federal Highway Administration for reimbursement], but I have not heard anything definitive from that yet,” Adkins said.
The city so far has spent about $7 million restoration to all public property.
“We could get substantially all of that back from state and federal relief,” Adkins said.
FEMA would cover damage to residential roads and storm and sanitary sewers. The FHA covers the main roads.
Danville’s deadline for repairing FEMA projects in order to get reimbursement is June 18, 2020. The city can apply for an extension, however.
As for the city’s utilities, there were almost $1.4 million in damages by the storm. That included damages to electric, water, wastewater, natural gas and telecommunications.
“All of our infrastructure was fixed within a short period of time after the storm,” Danville Utilities Director Jason Grey said. “We’re still working with FEMA on the claims.”
FEMA should provide 75% reimbursement and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management — from whom the city also will seek reimbursement — gives 23%.
“We should be getting close to full reimbursement,” Drazenovich said of repairs to public works infrastructure.
One major attraction in the city hit by Michael was the Riverwalk Trail. A foot bridge over Fall Creek that was dislodged and culverts at Barker’s Branch must be replaced.
“The engineering firm has provided the replacement plans for both,” Danville Parks and Recreation spokesman Russell Carter said.
Officials expect to install the new foot bridge — which will be wider than the previous one — in the spring of 2020.
“This will be a larger bridge to provide more access,” Carter said.
The bid has been awarded to Contech Engineered Solutions, in Ohio, for construction of a prefabricated bridge to go over Fall Creek. Building the bridge will cost $98,025, said Gina Craig, administrative division director for Danville Parks and Recreation.
Installation of the bridge will be bid separately.
Part of the reason bridge replacement has taken so long is the city had to file paperwork to request money for reimbursement, as well as additional funds to not only replace but improve on the old bridge, Carter said.
Officials hope the culvert project at Barker’s Branch will be finished by the end of this year. The two culverts will be replaced with one larger one.
“We’re proposing to install one larger culvert for more water flow,” Craig said.
FEMA is reviewing the design and the city expects to start the bidding process on the culvert project in about two weeks, Craig said.
The Riverwalk Trail covers about 12 miles. Though storm damage split the trail into three sections, just a small part of it is inaccessible.
“There’s not even a quarter of a mile missing,” Carter said. “The majority of the trail is passable.”
As for new training to help emergency crews deal with flooding situations, Danville Fire Department Chief Tim Duffer said the department has added more people with swift-water training, more dry suits and an inflatable boat.
The department was going to do all of that anyway, however.
“We live in a river city, so we’ve always known the potential was there,” Duffer said. “With Michael, when we had the two fatalities, that kind of drove it home more.”
The city also has had joint training with the county on technical rescue, including surface-water rescue.
In Pittsylvania County, protocol has not changed, but training has been added as a result of Michael, County Public Safety Coordinator Chris Slemp said.
During the week of Sept. 23 to 27, the county had one of its fire marshals and three volunteers attend swift-water rescue classes in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The county has also spent more in special operations, including more equipment such as rope and rappelling gear, he added. Officials also are looking at getting more boats.
“We have two boats,” Slemp said. “They’re not in bad condition. We’d like to add a third fourth.”
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.