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A dark road, a rush of mud and suddenly 2 NC men found their truck shoved into river

This is what's left of the NCDOT dump truck that was pushed into the Catawba River in McDowell County late Tuesday.
This is what's left of the NCDOT dump truck that was pushed into the Catawba River in McDowell County late Tuesday.

Two North Carolina road workers had to be rescued late Tuesday after the 33,000-pound dump truck they were operating was pushed into the Catawba River by one of the multiple mudslides reported overnight in McDowell County.

The truck was then swept about 1,000 feet down river by the fast-rising waters, said NCDOT spokesman David Uchiyama.

Both men escaped through a side window as the vehicle tumbled into the brown water. They were standing in the dark on the passenger side door when rescuers arrived to pull them out of the river, NCDOT said in a Facebook post.

It happened about 10 p.m. on Catawba River Road near Old Fort, Uchiyama said.

Photos posted Wednesday morning on Facebook by NCDOT show the dump truck on its side and largely submerged, due to the 4 to 8 inches of rain that fell overnight in the state's mountain counties.

State officials said Wednesday that more than 50 roads and major highways in 15 western N.C. counties are closed because of flooding, mudslides and fallen trees.

The record-setting rain, linked to Subtropical Storm Alberto, is blamed for mudslides, flash floods, a breached dam, and the deaths of a TV anchorman and photojournalist. The pair, who worked for WYFF in Greenville, S.C., died Monday when a tree fell on their vehicle.

NCDOT officials say the two workers rescued from the Catawba River late Tuesday were taken to a hospital, but were not injured.

The men were using a dump truck fitted with a snow plow to remove mud from Catawba River Road when additional debris began to tumble onto the road, said Uchiyama.

The force of the rush of mud was strong enough to push the tandem dump truck and the attached plow into the river, he said.

The men stood on the side of the truck for about 10 minutes waiting to be rescued and during that time, the water rose to their knees, he said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation drone footage shows the mudslides that forced the partial closure of I-40 east of Asheville in McDowell County Tuesday night, May 29, 2018.

A rescue team from the Old Fort Fire Department pulled the men to shore using ropes, Uchiyama said.

That area of the river is typically about knee deep, but was 10 feet deep at the time of the rescue, he added.

The heavy rain has caused mudslides, washouts and flooding on interstates, highways and local roads across western North Carolina, NCDOT officials said in a tweet.

Some roads in McDowell County could be closed for a week after being "completely washed out," reported TV station WLOS.

Over the past two weeks, between 12 and 18 inches of rain has fallen in the Blue Ridge Mountains, says the National Weather Service.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs
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