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Flooded docks, debris lead suggested ‘idle only’ speed limit on Smith Mountain Lake

‘It’s very hazardous. It could be fatal’

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Flooded docks and floating debris don’t make for an ideal Memorial Day Weekend at Smith Mountain Lake.

“You can see the whole dock, the whole walkway underwater," said boat owner Marvin Powell. ”It was actually more water than I thought.”

Powell came to check on his boat at Waterwheel Marina on Friday morning after heavy rain flooded the lake.

“We were actually planning on being on the water today, but of course all that changed,” said Powell.

Waterwheel Marina is closed until further notice due to high floodwaters on Smith Mountain Lake ahead of Memorial Day Weekend.
Waterwheel Marina is closed until further notice due to high floodwaters on Smith Mountain Lake ahead of Memorial Day Weekend. (WSLS)

The marina is closed until further notice due to the dangers associated with the flooding. Law enforcement is also asking all boaters to obey an idle speed everywhere on the lake because of the risks: wakes could cause even more damage to boats, property or docks.

Shane Wilson, a conservation officer with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said that one big danger is shore power because electrical sockets could be underwater.

“If people touch the water, they could get shocked under the water. And most people don’t even know it’s there until they’re in it. It’s very hazardous. It could be fatal," said Wilson.

Wilson said officers were on standby all day to wrangle boats that floated away in the floodwaters and secure them until the owners could have them towed back home. He also said debris hidden in the water could damage boats and injure passengers.

Smith Mountain Lake Sea Tow posted on Facebook, warning boaters that their tops and lights might not have enough clearance under Hales Ford Bridge due to high water, writing: “best advice is to not boat until this water goes down.”

Even if Powell wanted to get out on the lake, he couldn’t get to his boat anyway. While the fish are free to roam, Powell’s going to have to wait for his weekend on the water.

“I think the worst is over now,” said Powell. “Hopefully the water goes down and Sunday I’m on the water.”


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