Flooding forces evacuations in Chapel Hill
Posted December 30, 2015
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Heavy rains Wednesday turned area creeks into roiling torrents that flowed down streets and through neighborhoods, forcing people to evacuate homes and businesses.
Chapel Hill firefighters used trucks to ferry 33 residents away from the Camelot Village Apartments, at 130 S. Estes Drive, and Orange County Emergency Management set up a shelter for them, officials said.
"I looked out the door three times to make sure it wasn't flooded, and then I jumped up and looked, and I saw the water and said, 'Oh my God. ... We've got to go,'" said Beverly Eubanks, who was taking care of someone's child.
Bill Riley was one of many who saw their apartment get flooded.
"Water was a half-inch in my apartment, coming through the door," he said. "I just couldn't believe it happened that quick."
Camelot Village is prone to flooding from nearby Bolin Creek, but residents said they couldn't believe how quickly it came up – it was knee-deep when most people left and was already inside first-floor apartments. Residents in upper-floor units said they decided to leave with firefighters for fear of getting trapped.
After leaving her apartment, Trina Vaughn was reunited with her fiancé, but had little else with her.
"I was alone and then they came, the fire people came beating on the door," Vaughn said. "They told me to get my pocket book and leave right then."
High water closed Estes Drive Drive from Franklin Street to Library Drive and at Willow Drive in Chapel Hill, while Cleland Drive was closed at U.S. Highway 15/501, Fordham Boulevard was closed at Ephesus Church Road, Brookview Drive was closed at Kenmore Road and Umstead Drive was closed from Pritchard Avenue Extension to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Orange County officials said that no injuries were reported.
Some Chatham residents have to row home
Flooding also was reported in parts of Durham and in Chatham County.
Residents on Jeremiah Drive, between the Fearrington community and Jordan Lake in Chatham County, have had to use boats from the North Chatham Fire Department to get in and out of their neighborhood for several days because the road is under water – some residents said it has been as deep as 3 feet.
Some residents have tried to drive trucks and SUVs through the high water, but resident Todd Massey said that brings risks.
"There are big sticks and logs floating around as the water recedes. You need to make sure you don't get hung up on one of those," Massey said.
Residents blame high water levels at Jordan Lake – the lake was almost 13 feet above normal Wednesday – for the overwash.
"The lake is flooded and running over, and this is a runoff of that situation," Jason Farrar said.
"I've talked to the supervisor at the dam. They increased the output yesterday afternoon, but still we probably have as much coming in as they're putting out," Massey said. "Till we get some sunny days, we're just going to have to deal with it."
Dana Matics, assistant operations manager for Jordan Lake, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to reduce releases from the dam on Wednesday from 8,000 to 3,000 cubic feet per second – the dam releases 500 cubic feet per second on a normal day – so as not to aggravate flooding downstream along the Cape Fear River. He said releases from the dam should start increasing again by Friday.
Residents said they don't expect Jeremiah Drive to resurface for two to three weeks, but a permanent fix for flooding in the area isn't in the offing.
Steve Abbott, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said a plan to keep the road above water lost out to a 2012 budget cut. Then, local officials didn't include it when they put together a priority list for projects in the state's 2016-25 transportation plan.
Abbott said it's possible that Jeremiah Drive could be considered for DOT's 2018-27 priority list.