Staunton couple’s home and business destroyed by flooding

STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) – Walt and Claudia Wittmann don’t usually keep a forklift in their living room, but it was the easiest way to tear up the bubbled, mildew-covered hardwood floors now headed for the dump. And the custom-built kitchen which had dovetail drawers and was designed and fabricated by Walt himself is now unidentifiable as a kitchen.

“Literally just got thrown out in a matter of just two days,” said Walt.

The Wittmanns have lived in a loft on Central Avenue in Staunton for 20 years. Right next door in the same building is their business, Helvetica Designs. It’s an 8,500 square foot machine shop where Walt builds custom furniture.

“Doors, cabinets, you name it, furniture, free-standing. It’s basically whatever the customer requires,” said Walt.

He’s been described by some as the backbone to the operation of many downtown restaurants.

“There’s a gap, where the normal companies can’t fill it, that’s where I step in and try to help out,” stated Walt.

But those orders are on hold. It all requires tools, materials and machines, all of which were floating in nearly three feet of water earlier this month.

“It’s kind of difficult when you’re missing 99 percent of your infrastructure, all the machines that are required to actually do my job properly,” stated Walt. “They’re just not there.”

He estimates $150,000 – $200,000 in damage between the shop and their home. Now the Wittmanns have more questions than answers.

“Is it worth rebuilding, or is it gonna cost too much? And then is this gonna happen again?” asked Wittmann.

That could hinge on a question they have for the City of Staunton.

“It’s obvious that it’s an ongoing problem. Are they willing to address it?”

The city’s answer to that question is a plan to assess its storm water management facilities and practices.

Floodplain Administrator John Glover says an assessment would help the city find the projects that could have the biggest impact and would be the best use of resources.

“I think there will be an effort. We just need to remember the amount of water here was enormous. It was abnormal,” stated Glover. “And it’s a challenge to design a storm water system that will handle that amount of water.”

The city’s assessment plan is available on the Staunton City website.

And, if you’d like to support Walt and Claudia Wittmann, one restaurant owner launched a fundraising campaign for the couple on GoFundMe.

Copyright 2020 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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