DANVILLE — Even amid damage and no power, Danville businesses and residents alike stay upbeat, make the best of it.
As city crews worked to remove felled trees from roadways, restore power and clear the wreckage from Tropical Storm Michael on Saturday, life in Danville went on.
But for Louis Williamson and other residents of the city, there had to be some adjustments.
Standing in front of Lou’s Barber Shop on South Main Street, Williamson did what he usually does: Cut hair. But instead of offering tonsorial services under a roof, he stood in the sun clutching an electric trimmer connected to a portable generator.
The flooding hit his shop hard, Williamson explained. Inside, the waters displaced and muddied Williamson’s red-cushioned barber chairs. It scattered now-hardened clumps of mud on the floor and knocked his power out. But there he was days later.
“A lot of the community depends on me to be there,” he said while edging a customer’s hair. “Sometimes a barbershop makes people’s day.”
Rather than shutter his business until the building could be cleaned, Williamson dragged four chairs and a few benches out into the sun Saturday and let his clientele know he was open. Some came for haircuts — others came to just say hi — but the makeshift shop was in business.
“Long as you stay in the game, you have a chance to win,” Williamson said.
Williamson has owned the shop for 18 years and said the flooding did not deter him. He said he wanted to stabilize his customers’ routines so they could return to some kind of normality.
“Everybody’d like to get back to their regular schedules,” Williamson said. “Everybody wants to look nice… sometimes a haircut will bring your life back to order.”
As of noon Saturday, Danville was still in a state of emergency from the storm, which pummeled the city Thursday. Three people died in the flooding across Danville and Pittsylvania County, and the Dan River swelled to a record height, overtaking many low-lying trails and roads.
Tropical Storm Michael dumped 6 inches of rain on Danville, the most on any single day on record, according to the National Weather Service in Blacksburg. Records date back to 1916.
The previous record was 5.81 inches on Aug. 27, 2008.
Emergency officials responded to dozens of water rescues. The Danville Life Saving Crew estimates that up to 125 people were saved from rising floodwaters.
City Manager Ken Larking reported the city hoped to restore power to 90 percent of residents by the end of the day. The remaining outages were more localized and will take longer to fix. Other cities pitched in to help Danville maintenance crews, which were working the “maximum hours allowed,” Larking wrote in a statement.
Those crews toiled to address problems like Kenneth Calvert’s. Calvert, 90, was in his kitchen the day of the storm when he heard a crash around 3:30 p.m. A large tree had collapsed on both his house and his neighbor’s car, pulling utility lines taut on its way down. Additionally, floodwaters had soaked through carpets on the house’s lower floor and had to be torn up and piled out in front of the Howeland Circle home.
Calvert turned 90 the day before the storm and, despite conceding the weather was a lackluster birthday present, said he was not bitter.
“There’s no point in being upset with Mother Nature,” Calvert said with a smile. “Things happen. I just happened to be in the wrong place.”
The tree punched a hole through Calvert’s bathroom ceiling and damaged the house’s façade. The same tree that knocked a hole in the Calvert’s bathroom smashed into his neighbor’s truck while his neighbor was still inside.
The storm hit, and picked up fast, when neighbor Ted Hardison was returning home from lunch . It was raining so hard when he got home that he decided to eat lunch in the car. Getting out would have soaked him and his food.
There was little wind at first, but Hardison worried about another tree in his backyard falling. He saw its branches twisting in the wind, so he backed down his narrow driveway. Then the tree behind him fell on the cab, breaking the windshield and denting the roof.
“If Ken’s house hadn’t caught the tree, it would’ve landed all on my truck,” he said, motioning toward a mass of tangled branches in front of his truck. “I was very fortunate.”
Though the city has begun cleaning up from Thursday’s deluge, Larking cautioned city residents to be careful of downed lines and fallen trees.