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Floodwaters still rising; rain will continue to fall

For 13 days in a row, the Charlotte region has faced stormy conditions, with some parts of the city getting four times the amount of rain as normal since June 1.

This weekend, expect more of the same.

The rain has caused crumbling roads and flooding. For residents, it’s meant postponing plans and missing fireworks.

“I hate to say it, but we see more rain coming,” National Weather Service meteorologist Lauren Visin said.

Rainfall eased somewhat Friday in the immediate Charlotte area, but heavy storms and flooding continued in the foothills and mountains.

The precipitation threatens to send some of the Catawba basin reservoirs over their banks, including Mountain Island Lake, which could flood Saturday or Sunday as runoff from the heavy rain comes downstream.

Forecasters say more of the same is likely Saturday and Sunday in the mountains, and a return to stormier conditions is likely Sunday in the Charlotte area, after only scattered storms Friday and Saturday.

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory asked the federal government for disaster relief in several Charlotte-area counties hit by flash flooding last weekend. McCrory also visited the state’s western mountains Friday for a look at flooding.

More than 9 inches of rain has fallen since June 1 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Some reporting stations in the Charlotte area have received more than 13 inches since June 1 – about four times the average precipitation during that time.

Fireworks postponed

While government officials try to deal with the damage and prepare for possible additional flooding, many Carolinas residents found their lives impacted.

Rain postponed Independence Day fireworks displays Wednesday and Thursday nights in several cities. Officials in Morganton announced Friday that they had postponed their event indefinitely because of flooding at the park where the fireworks display was planned.

Meanwhile, a tree weakened by the heavy rain fell onto a power line Friday morning, knocking out power at the Carowinds theme park. A similar outbreak of storms June 13 caused tree and power-line damage that left 100,000 customers without power in the Carolinas.

The park was closed for hours on one of its traditional busiest days.

Among those affected by the Carowinds shutdown were Sherrills Ford’s Catherine Early and her two children. They waited in the parking lot Friday morning, their plans foiled by bad weather for the third time this season.

Early, whose family has season passes, said she sent a text message to her husband saying, “We’re jinxed.”

“I’m not driving home just to turn around and drive back,” Early said. “So we’re going to hit the mall, fireworks and then we’ll go and enjoy.”

Early said she saw a number of people unhappy about the park being closed.

“A lot of people are angry,” she said. “It’s so funny, because they’re mad at Carowinds. I’m thinking, ‘It’s an act of God, people!’ ”

Flood warnings

Flood warnings were in effect for portions of several counties Friday. The National Weather Service warned residents along several Catawba River reservoirs to prepare for flooding.

Duke Energy officials said they were struggling to keep water moving through their chain of lakes while limiting flooding. But with more than 10 inches of rain falling in some parts of the foothills and mountains in recent days, the task was challenging.

“It’s truly a balancing act,” Duke spokeswoman Lisa Hoffmann said. “In addition to the heavy rain, we have saturated ground, and that drainage also is part of the picture.

“At some point, the water has to go downstream.”

Early Friday afternoon, Duke Energy reported lakes James, Rhodhiss and Lookout Shoals were above full pond, the maximum safe level below a spillway. Lookout Shoals was 3.7 feet above full level. Moose Lodge Campground and several roads near Lake James were expected to flood, National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Horne said. And high water on Lookout Shoals Lake will cause flooding on Carpenter Cove Road.

As the water is allowed to move downstream, residents along Mountain Island Lake in northwest Mecklenburg County will be at risk of flooding. That happened in early May, after several days of heavy rain.

“We expect that would happen Saturday or Sunday,” Hoffmann said.

What concerns officials along the Catawba River is the additional rain in the forecast.

“We’ll be looking at the chance of more periods of heavy rain in the higher elevations,” Visin said.

The toll on roads and water lines also is increasing.

More than a dozen roads have been closed in Mecklenburg, Anson, Cabarrus and Stanly counties by last weekend’s flooding. On Friday, crews worked to repair a broken water line on Remount Road in Charlotte. While crews aren’t sure what caused the broken line, utilities officials say the broken lines often are caused by soil shifting underground during heavy rains.

The N.C. Department of Transportation continued its assessment of damaged roads Friday, and it probably will be next week before officials know when the roads can be repaired and reopened.

Meanwhile, new problems developed Thursday and Friday to the northwest of Charlotte.

Flooding in Caldwell and Ashe counties caused several washouts. DOT officials said N.C. 268 east of Lenoir was closed by high water Friday afternoon. They say it will be at least the middle of next week before it reopens.

McCrory said he is asking the U.S. Small Business Administration for a disaster declaration in Anson, Cabarrus, Montgomery, Rowan, Stanly and Union counties. That would provide financial help to homeowners, renters and businesses that faced property damage.

Steve Lyttle: 704-358-6107 Twitter: @slyttle
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