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Heavy rainfall in the region has touched off flash flooding and swollen rivers, which in turn has snarled traffic on waterlogged roads from Danville to South Hill.


Comet teams host region playoff games





Unwanted excitement / July 03, 2013
Just in case anyone wondered, there truly is such a thing as “too much excitement.”

Just ask the Town of Clarksville, which has seen more than its fair share of activity this week, most of it welcome, although there was one major exception.

That, of course, would be the armed robbery Thursday afternoon at Bank of America. A scary scene all around: two armed assailants, waving pistols at terrorized bank employees, entered the bank, made off with an undisclosed amount of cash and hustled their way out of town. Let’s hope the perpetrators are located and arrested ASAP.

That task will fall to local police and to the FBI, both of whom are on the case. As often happens with crimes such as these, the suspects were caught on video, although the images that were released to the media this week were more than a little grainy. (A security camera mounted outside Lake Country Satellite at the foot of the Buggs Island bridge, on Business 58, captured the getaway vehicle, a black pickup truck, headed east outside Clarksville). Hopefully the images will help to generate the break that authorities may need to make an arrest.

Not to nitpick — because law enforcement officers have enough on them as it is — but I can’t profess to understand one thing: why it took five days to release the surveillance photos to the public. (We received the images via e-mail on Monday and posted two of them on our website,, early that afternoon. The images also appear in today’s newspaper). Presumably the whole point of disseminating the photos is to encourage tips on the robbers’ identities, prior movements, possible whereabouts, what have you. That being so, why did it take so long to put the photos out so people could view them?

As an aside, more than one time this week, I’ve heard it mentioned that there was another bank robbery this week, in the Lynchburg area. And it’s true, as a search of the WSET-TV website confirmed. (WSET, an ABC affiliate, is based in Lynchburg). Last Wednesday, a BB&T branch in Afton, located in nearby Nelson County, was held up by a lone gunman, described as a black man about 6’3” and of medium build. WSET posted its initial story on the robbery on its website about two hours after the incident took place, around 9:35 a.m. that morning. (Our initial report on the 1:50 p.m. Clarksville holdup was posted to by 2:47 p.m. Thursday afternoon). The similarities, alas, end there. By the next day, WSET had surveillance photos of the robbery suspect showing up on its website. Granted, perhaps there were technical issues that stood in the way of an equally quick photo release with the Clarksville robbery, although if so, it would be nice to know what the problems were.

Can anyone offer a reason for holding back, to the extent one might exist?


Of course, much of the rest of the chatter around Clarksville this week has focused on the Dixie softball and baseball tournaments at Robbins and Shaver fields. The bevy of tournaments (four district softball competitions in four age divisions; plus one district baseball tournament) has brought hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors to town. Pretty impressive, coming as it does just a few weeks before Lakefest.

The positive impact on local commerce has not gone unnoticed. Of course, we’ve seen this dynamic at work before: South Hill received similar boosts in business each time it has hosted one of these major ball tournaments, most recently in July 2012 when Parker Park was selected as the venue for the Virginia Dixie championships in the Belles division. (The host South Hill girls won the state title, then prevailed in the Dixie World Series played a few weeks later in Powhatan). It takes a great deal of volunteer and community effort to stage tournaments such as these, and everyone involved in the Clarksville effort has earned a bow.

That said, a special note of thanks is owed to those who worked so diligently to upgrade Robbins Park — a prerequisite for the town landing the tournament in the first place. Kudos go out to Clarksville Dixie Youth, town crews and members of Town Council who green-lighted the effort, to name just a few. And the entire undertaking probably would have been impossible without the help of the Clarksville Ruritans, who provided much of the money for the renovations. The Ruritans never cease to amaze with their ability to come through for the town — whether it’s fixing up the ballpark, building the community center, or drumming up support for community assets such as the Enrichment Complex. If ever a bigger MVP has come to bat for a small community, I’d like to see it.


Two weeks ago The Sun featured a 50th anniversary retrospective on Lake Gaston, which was dedicated back on June 26, 1963 in a ceremony led by state and local officials and executives with Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO), builders of the lake. Today, of course, Gaston and its sister impoundment, Roanoke Rapids Lake, are owned by Dominion, the successor company to VEPCO. These are the easternmost lakes in a chain of projects along the Roanoke River, which once ran wild and free (and continues to in stretches, more or less, at least during periods of high rainfall).

One of the pieces I wrote for this undertaking was a front-page feature on the book “Ferry Tales,” which is easily the best history of Lake Gaston I’ve run across. “Ferry Tales” is hardly a magisterial account — it is noticeably light on details on the events that led to the lake’s formation — but it is invaluable, and utterly engrossing, as a collection of oral histories from longtime Roanoke Valley inhabitants. A handful of the stories that are told in the book will be familiar to some readers, such as the legend of Sir Archie (arguably America’s first thoroughbred, and perhaps Northampton County’s greatest four-legged resident), the passage of Sherman’s Army across the Roanoke, and Edgar Allen Poe’s fascination with the slave tales of the area. But other tales are delightfully strange and picaresque: feasting on porcupine BBQ on the riverbank, young couples prolonging their dates as they waited for the ferry to cross the river to take them home, people scurrying for safety when the river spilled its banks. You get these stories in the vernacular of those who know the river (and the lake) best, and if you enjoy history, as I do, you won’t want to put it down.

The most amazing thing about “Ferry Tales,” however, is that is was written and researched by a bunch of high school kids — in this case, members of the 12th grade English classes at New Warren Tech High School in Warrenton, N.C. The teacher is Cheryl Sebrell, a veteran educator who told me that the experience was an unforgettable one for her and her students. One takeaway from the book? It started as a Project-Based Learning assignment. Just something to think about during these idle days of summer.

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