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Catawba River flooding recedes

Water levels in communities near the Catawba River receded Wednesday, and many residents in affected areas began to return to flooded neighborhoods in Mecklenburg and Catawba counties.

An emergency official told the Observer that lake and river levels will continue to drop “as long as the weather holds,” but conditions near bodies of water can still be dangerous.

“Although the river levels are dropping, the water levels are still above normal and the currents are swift,” said Charlotte Fire Department Capt. Mark Basnight. “Recreationists attempting to navigate the river may still encounter debris and other hazards while Duke Energy continues to move copious amounts of water through this channel. Our best advice is stay off the river until the water levels return to normal.”

Duke Energy’s lake level website showed Mountain Island Lake 2.2 feet above full pond on Wednesday evening, with water expected to spill over the dam for several weeks. Lake Norman and Lake Wylie were slightly below full pond, which is still higher than usual. While there remains a chance of rain this week, the volume was not expected to cause new flooding.

On Tuesday, floodwaters blocked a road in Charlotte and firefighters went door to door warning people about flooding. About 90 homes across Mecklenburg and Catawba counties were directly affected by the flooding, Charlotte firefighters said. Fifty-three of those homes were in Charlotte, and 10 families were evacuated.

Duke Energy cut the power to about 30 homes at risk of flooding in the Riverside community of northwest Charlotte. The American Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at Cook’s Memorial Presbyterian Church on Mount Holly-Huntersville Road for affected residents.

Water raced downstream after mountain counties received up to 7 inches of rain Monday. Nearly a dozen landslides near Asheville were blamed on the rains, and roads near the French Broad River remained closed because of high water. Several roads across the mountains remain closed after landslides, and one of the slides killed a railroad worker.

Charlotte received 1.6 inches of rain, breaking a precipitation record for the day.

The flooding reached its maximum level just after 5 p.m. Tuesday, said Charlotte Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Dulin.

Cathy Roche of the Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission said docks and boats floated away and debris was caught under the N.C. 16 bridge.

Some areas of the upper Catawba River got 11 inches of rain or more over three days, requiring Duke Energy’s hydro-operations team to move significant amounts of water through the river’s 225 miles and chain of 11 reservoirs and 13 hydroelectric stations, said Randy Herrin, general manager of Duke Energy’s hydro fleet.

“We received about three months of rain in three days in the upper Catawba River Basin,” he said.

Some streams and tributaries flowed at 50 to 100 times their normal volumes of water, Herrin said. Staff reporter Cameron Steele contributed.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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