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Flood warning along Mountain Island Lake; more storms forecast

Flood warnings were extended into parts of Mecklenburg and Gaston counties Saturday morning, and forecasters say they expect flooding during the day on Mountain Island Lake.

Meteorologists and officials at Duke Energy say they expect the lake to crest 2.5 feet above full level, enough to cause flooding on roads near the lake.

Additional flooding is expected Saturday in the Gaston County town of Cramerton, along the South Fork Catawba River.

The flood warnings now extend for a large swath of the Catawba River basin, from Burke County down to Mountain Island Lake. Additional warnings might be needed Sunday along Lake Wateree in South Carolina, the southernmost of Duke Energy’s reservoirs along the river.

Meanwhile, meteorologists say they expect more showers and thunderstorms Saturday over the western Carolinas.

National Weather Service meteorologist Neil Dixon said the Interstate 77 corridor will be along a boundary between drier air to the east, gradually pushing westward, and very humid air over the mountains. That boundary area will serve as a trigger for afternoon and evening storms that could add to the water woes.

In addition, frequent showers and storms are expected Saturday and Sunday in the mountains. That rainfall is expected to worsen conditions along the Catawba River basin.

Along Mountain Island Lake, the flood threat is expected on Lake Drive and Riverside Drive. Some of those lakeside areas experienced flooding in May after heavy mountain rains.

Duke Energy said late Friday night that it expects Mountain Island Lake to crest no more than 2.5 feet above full level. It was 1.4 feet above full level late Friday night.

More significant flooding is taking place to the northwest, along Lookout Shoals Lake in Catawba County. That reservoir was more than 3 feet above full level Friday evening, and flooding of low-lying residential areas was being reported.

The other flood threat Saturday is in Cramerton. The Weather Service says South Fork Catawba River will crest 1.5 feet above flood stage. That is enough to cause flooding on Riverside Drive, between 5th and 6th streets. Meteorologists say the water also might approach homes between the river and Catawba Run Road.

The relentless period of showers and thunderstorms, now in its 14th day, 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.

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 traditionally 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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