Danville's fire chief talks about city's growth a year after Hurricane Michael

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DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - This week marks one year since Hurricane Michael made landfall. In Danville, the storm caused millions of dollars in damage.

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"We've been through several emergencies but Michael hit us more than, it caused more damage than I can remember in my history," said Fire Chief David Eagle in a sit-down interview.

October 11, 2018 is when the damage was most visible. There was knee-deep flooding, dozens of cars stranded and even more people stuck in rising water.

"And that's something that we weren't prepared for. And it's something that happened really fast," said Eagle.

Seven inches of rain came down in just 90 minutes. As Danville's Fire chief and emergency management coordinator, David Eagle reflects: He said he can't shake the images of the water that destroyed roads, houses and businesses.

"We had flooding all over town in areas that we've never had before."

The worst flooding happened on Riverside Drive. It's a thoroughfare that parallels the Dan River. It's also a flood plane. When the water began rising, so did the number of people in dire need.

"We really didn't staff up extra people, felt like we could handle it in house, but we had to do recalls and get people in rapidly," said Eagle.

Inflatable rafts were used for the rescues. Emergency management staff first had to get into the rafts to reach folks who needed to get to dry land.

Several streets that feed into Riverside Drive also experienced flooding. Near 3rd Street, a 30-foot hole spanned the entire road and washed it away. A new street was finished in its place just three months ago.

The city had to pull money out of its budget to pay for it. The goal is for FEMA to reimburse Danville.

"We're looking at around six million," said Eagle.

For now that figure is a lingering reminder of how powerful water can be.

New construction on Riverside Drive is a reminder of the growth that's happened though since last October, fulfilling Chief Eagle's goal of making things stronger than they were before.

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