Fort Shenandoah Devastated by Flood

The worst flooding in the thirty year history of Fort Shenandoah surged down Hoague Creek and seriously damaged most of the lower campgrounds earlier this year. The cause of the severe flooding was a Nor'easter which followed on the heels of an enormous blizzard (for Virginia) in mid-January. The combined melt of the blizzard and additional rainfall caused flooding up and down the East Coast. While the total damage is still unknown, the flood caused the cancellation of the first two skirmishes scheduled for this year at the home range of the North-South Skirmish Association and seriously threatens the annual schedule for many members.

When I toured the property on February 11, most of the damage was still evident. In our own campground on Confederate Road, which roughly parallels Hoague Creek, all of our camping trailers had been damaged by flood water. Our Commander's unit was totaled, and will have to be replaced. My little trailer had been relocated by the flood, the combined ballast in the spare tire, axle tires and full gas cylinder providing enough buoyancy to float the "SS Minnow" downstream about 75 yards. From the waterline debris left in the woods and the waterline on the side of my trailer, it appears that the flood water was at least four feet deep at our campground. The brute force of the flood water is evident everywhere, including the side of my home-away-from-home. Several dents and holes were applied to the metal sides of my trailer by floating debris. My spare tire was ripped from it's mounting, shearing the tire bolts clean off the trailer!

As my spare tire and other debris flowed down the creek, the bridge which crosses from the Sutlers Area to the Firing Range served as an impediment, and two members of my team who traveled to Ft. Shenandoah immediately following the flood relayed that at least five recreational vehicles were trapped under that bridge when they were there. When I observed the scene, Bill Groah, the always capable caretaker of the property (and damn fine gentleman, too) had managed to have the debris removed from the bridge abutments, but several tons of trailer parts and miscellaneous junk were piled in a mass six feet tall, eight feet wide and twenty feet long next to the bridge below the sutler parking area. I also observed a camper which had been torn apart in the trunks of a double trunk tree by the creek bend behind the Stat Shack. Everywhere I went that Sunday, I saw trailer parts where they had come to rest after the flood. Wet or snowy weekends since the flood have seriously impaired the members ability to come to the property and inspect or remove their trailers. As all skirmishers know, the N-SSA has a requirement that any trailer kept on the property must be maintained in a "ready to move" status, i.e. it may not be permanently anchored down. The large number of trailers relocated by the flood are a testament to our adherence to this regulation.

I know I wouldn't have managed to retrieve my own trailer without the assistance of my hunting buddy and neighbor, Paul Hart, and the emergency loan of a tire- inflating, cigarette lighter powered air compressor from Dave Scanlon of the First Maryland Cavalry. Paul volunteered the services of himself and his "Country Cadillac" to help me pull the trailer out of it's new location, and Dave just did what most skirmishers do, help another skirmisher out when they need something you can easily provide.

The severity of the winter storms had already caused the postponement of the Snowball Skirmish, which had been scheduled for the weekend of the flood. The flood also caused the postponement of the Early Bird Skirmish, which had been scheduled for the first weekend in March this year. A "Work Skirmish" has been scheduled for March 23rd and 24th at Ft. Shenandoah, with a bad weather date of March 30 and 31. Mem- bers from each team are requested to come to the Fort with shovels, rakes and other sweat-producing implements to help repair the facility for the upcoming season. Regional and team commanders will be contacting the membership about this worth- while endeavor, and I hope the N-SSA can turn out in strength to support this effort.

The flood raises serious questions about the "all your eggs in one basket" philoso- phy of the N-SSA. Long ago, the dry campsites were billeted at Fort Shenandoah, however, the Board of Directors (who incidently are also the Elected Officers and Regional Commanders) still assigns new units to the flood plain of Hoague Creek. With 1996 being an election year for National Officers in the N-SSA, I am sure the members of the organization will scrutinize the clean-up operation closely. Although lip-service has been given to the idea of another National Range by a few N-SSA officials, perhaps now is the time to do something.

I have always advocated the acquisition of another operations center to support continued growth in the N-SSA. My two choices would be somewhere in Southern New York close to the Pennsylvania border, or a location in Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky. Either choice would only be two or three hours from our present lone outpost, and would provide the long needed space for expanding our membership base. Teams could request permanent campgrounds at one site, and a visitor area would be open for their camping when they compete at the other. National Skirmishes could rotate between the locations, and many N-SSA Regions would then have better facilities for skirmishing. Such an expansion program would also fit in to my idea that the National Skirmishes have grown too big, and teams should be required to qualify for National Skirmish participation in Pistol, Carbine, Musket, Artillery and other team competitions. New facilities also open up the possibility of expanding competition ranges, maybe 200 yards for Musket, or 300 yards for Artillery.

Regardless of the outcome of the elections at the Fall National Skirmish, the damage to our only physical plant will have to be repaired early this Spring for our activities to continue. I hope to see many skirmishers at the Work Skirmish, and after we get the place cleaned up, it'll be time to shoot safe and have fun all over again.

(C) 1996 Tom Kelley
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