Heavy rains trap dozens

Light rain is expected today in the Charlotte metro region, but forecasters expect nothing like the torrential downpours that caused flooding Wednesday in parts of the area.

Rain clouds parked over a section of northern Charlotte during rush hour Wednesday, overwhelming Little Sugar Creek, flooding streets and trapping dozens of people in cars and businesses.

Earlier in the day, slow-moving thunderstorms also caused flooding in Richmond County and parts of eastern Anson County.

The cold front responsible for the downpours has moved southward into South Carolina today. In its wake, the Charlotte metro region is in what meteorologists call a cold air wedge -- a flow of cool, damp air off the Atlantic Ocean.

That means we'll have low clouds, some fog and occasional drizzle, and much cooler temperatures today. Highs will remain in the lower 70s for much of the day.

The cold air wedge is forecast to erode Friday, with warmer temperatures and a chance of thunderstorms returning by afternoon.

Wednesday's flooding rain marked the second time in two weeks that Charlotte firefighters were forced to evacuate people to safety.

No one was injured, but in some places, firefighters in rafts floated from door to door making rescues, said Fire Department Spokesman Capt. Rob Brisley. In one rescue, three people, including an infant, were pulled from a car on Cullman Avenue.

Gauges at Charlotte's airport recorded 1.3 inches of rain, but some areas in northern Charlotte got as much as 4 inches, according to the National Weather Service. In the heaviest-hit areas, firefighters got more than 22 flood-related emergency calls in three hours.

The most troublesome areas were along Cullman Avenue (36th Street) in northern Charlotte. But firefighters also made rescues on Burroughs Street, N. Tryon Street at Craighead and on Hidden Valley Road.

The heaviest rainfall total -- 4.55 inches -- was reported at Hidden Valley Elementary School. Many of the flooding reports and rescues happened in or near the Hidden Valley area.

Other heavy rainfall reports, recorded by automated gauges, came from the Derita community (3.23 inches); Irwin Creek at Starita Road in north Charlotte (3.23); and Fire Station 27, near Statesville Road and Harris Boulevard (3.2).

A corridor stretching from the Berryhill community in west Charlotte eastward to Reedy Creek Park received between 2 and 3 inches.

Earlier in the day, heavy rain fell in a corridor from Wadesboro in Anson County, eastward through Rockingham in Richmond County. The worst flooding was in Rockingham, where high water closed Business U.S. 74 near U.S. 1 for several hours.

Creeks and streams went out of their banks, flooding a number of homes and businesses in and near Rockingham. Authorities evacuated businesses along U.S. 74 in the Richmond County city, a short distance west of U.S. 1.

Flooding apparently washed away about 20 feet of the foundation under the CSX railroad tracks in the area. Authorities were trying to determine how to fix the repairs early this afternoon.

The National Weather Service office in Raleigh said more than 5 inches of rain fell in a period of about eight hours.

Heavy rain has been a problem in the area recently. More than 11 inches fell in parts of Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties two weeks ago, as a result of the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay. And 3 to 4 inches of rain fell late last Friday and early Saturday in parts of Richmond, Anson, Union, Stanly and Rowan counties, as the result of Tropical Storm Hanna.