Tuesday flood was once-in-century event, officials say

07/16/2014 5:42 PM

07/16/2014 6:42 PM

Residents and business owners in Matthews, Mint Hill and western Union County cleaned up Wednesday from what officials said was a once-in-a-century rainstorm Tuesday evening.

At least a dozen homes and businesses were flooded when slow-moving thunderstorms dumped more than 5 inches of rain in less than two hours.

“This was the hardest and longest rain I have seen in over 25 years,” said Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor, who experienced minor flooding at his home.

Sharon Foote of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services said officials determined that the storm produced heavy rainfall in the Matthews area seen only once in 100 years.

The storm developed over eastern Mecklenburg County shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday and moved slowly for the next two hours. Several streets were flooded, and Goose Creek in western Union County surged 3 feet out of its banks.

Marlene Henry, whose house was flooded on Winterwood Drive, said she was amazed at how fast the water rose. A creek near her home, which normally flows about 8 feet below a bridge on the street, rose about 4 feet above the bridge, flooding a car that tried to get through.

She said the water rose and then fell back below the bridge – all in less than an hour.

“When the Mississippi River floods, people have three days to prepare,” Foote said. “In our area, with flash floods, we have minutes.”

Near downtown Matthews, about 3 feet of water surged into the parking lot of Axley Collision Center, flooding several vehicles. Residents of the Crestdale community near Matthews were rescued by crews in trucks after water blocked Crestdale Drive.

Some of the worst flooding took place in the Hampton Green neighborhood, off South Trade Street a short distance south of downtown Matthews. Water from the Crooked Creek rose quickly and flooded several yards along Demaree Lane.

Danielle Burnham, who has lived in the area for about a decade, said she believes several large beaver dams on vacant property behind her street contributed to the flooding.

“I’m realistic enough to know that this was an unusual storm,” she said. “I can’t say that if the beaver dams weren’t there, we wouldn’t have had flooding. But I also believe the flooding wouldn’t have been so bad.”

Matthews Town Manager Hazen Blodgett visited the area Wednesday and told Burnham that the town will work with county government to get the beaver dams dismantled.

“This was so emotionally draining to watch the water climb and climb,” Burnham said.

In downtown Matthews, several feet of water covered the sidewalk in front of Carolina Beer Temple and several other stores. A couple inches of water got into Carolina Beer Temple, and owner Rob Jacik was forced to close the store Wednesday.

Jacik said insurance investigators were scheduled to visit Wednesday. In an online note to customers, he wrote, “We’re not sure when we will be back up and running – hopefully, much sooner than later.”

Rain gauges showed less than an inch fell across much of the Charlotte region, but a corridor stretching from near the Arboretum in southeast Charlotte up to the Mint Hill-Indian Trail area got between 2 and 5 inches.

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