Parts of First Landing State Park won’t open for weeks

High water on Shore Drive on Oct. 9. (Credit: WAVY/Lex Gray)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Almost a week after Hurricane Matthew has come and gone, high water remains on Shore Drive.

Shore Drive in Virginia Beach is flooded near the entrance to First Landing State Park on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. (Photo: WAVY/Bill Cole)
Shore Drive in Virginia Beach is flooded near the entrance to First Landing State Park on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. (Photo: WAVY/Bill Cole)

The westbound lanes of Shore Drive from 83rd Street to Kendall Avenue were closed because of standing water, but reopened on Friday morning.

A high water advisory is in place for the eastbound lanes of Shore Drive from Kendall Avenue to the entrance of the First Landing Campground.

WAVY News 10’s Marielena Balouris spoke to the park manager on Friday. He said, because of the extent of damage, First Landing will likely not reopen for weeks.

The park manager says there are acres of the park that are still covered in water. Some parts of the park are open to the public, like the bay side parking lot and the picnic spaces. For other spots, like the campgrounds and trails, it may take weeks before they are operating normally.

“It’s a bowl is what it boils down to. So, it’s sitting there and until it either evaporates or the ground starts absorbing more and more, we’re at the mercy of mother nature. When it goes away? We don’t know. There’s no way for us to know,” said First Landing State Park Manager Bruce Widener.

Widener says there are naturally occurring sand dunes in and around the park that normally absorb the water. Those dunes also keep water off of Shore Drive. But there has been so much rain in the last month that the dunes, and the ground, just can’t absorb anymore water.

“They are there and have been there forever. And when you consider how long we’ve had and how much rain we’ve had, this is so rare and it’s kind of amazing,” said Drew Lankford, media and communications coordinator for Virginia Beach.

Because the water didn’t stay down, Shore Drive near First Landing State Park flooded for the first time in 12 years.

“This literally was one of the rare events where there was so much water that it could not filter down,” Lankford said.

Widener says the clean-up inside of the park is extensive. They have to clear about 100 trees and fix some of the trails. They’re still waiting to see the damage to the cabins, but they can’t do that until the water goes down.

He said, “State parks are nature. We have to run with nature and we’ll see how it turns out.”

Besides the clean-up, the park is dealing with the economic impact of the storm. The campsites bring in about $10,000 every weekend. So as long as the water remains, the park feels the loss.

“Anything that we lose, it comes out of our pocket unfortunately,” said Widener. He says they are hoping to reopen 11 cabins on Monday.