Local News

Eastern N.C. Residents Concerned As Rivers Continue To Rise

Posted June 19, 2006

— Rivers in eastern North Carolina continued to overflow Friday, threatening homes and businesses and forcing road closures two days after the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto drenched much of the state.

"Not only do we have a back yard full of water and a street full of water, but we have a front yard full of water," Sandra Biggs of Rocky Mount said Thursday. "We've already lost one car. The water came up over and into the car."

Four people, including a woman in a wheelchair, were rescued Thursday morning when floodwaters surrounded their homes on Country Club Boulevard, authorities said.

City officials contacted by phone more than 450 people who live along the creek and river, warning them of rising water levels. Roads also flooded in nearby Nashville.

In Rocky Mount, the Tar River was at 19.7 feet at 5 a.m. Friday, nearly four feet above flood level, and could crest at around 20 feet before starting to recede by Saturday morning, National Weather Service forecaster Bob Ussery said Friday.

"We don't know when the thing is really going to go down completely," he said.

Further east in Tarboro, the Tar River was at 20 feet and rising Friday morning, according to the weather service.

"It's really not going to cause us any problems, but folks who have equipment or anything down by the river better keep an eye on it," said Butch Beach, director of the Edgecombe County Emergency Services. "This will be the highest the river has been in quite a while."

The Tar River crested at 41.5 feet after Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and reached 26.6 feet after Hurricane Fran in 1996.

In Johnston County, the Neuse River reached 22 feet Friday morning -- more than seven feet above flood level -- and was continuing to rise.

Wednesday's storm dumped 2 inches to 5 inches across the state, with localized rainfall near 8 inches in some places, he said.

Rainfall at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport totaled 5.04 inches, eclipsing previous record for June 14 of 1.41 inches, set in 2001. The Piedmont Triad's 1.31 inches broke the date's 1948 record of .94 inches.

The heavy rain flooded roads and low spots as Alberto passed through central and eastern North Carolina on Wednesday, shutting down roads and a Raleigh shopping mall, and leading to scores of traffic accidents.

On Thursday, water blocked the main road through downtown Nashville, forcing businesses there to close. In Franklin, Wake and Johnston counties, a number of roads were closed by high water Thursday.

Wes Strickland, owner of Club Fuzion, organized a sandbagging effort to protect his business, which sits along the Tar River.

"We had probably 25 to 30 people out here with shovels, wheelbarrows and sandbags," he said. "We were up here (Wednesday) looking at it, so we kind of knew it was going to happen."

Among the volunteers were members of a pre-wedding party that was scheduled to be held Thursday night at the club, he said.

"The bride, groom, best man and the rest of the party were all out here working," Strickland said. "We piled sandbags about 3 feet high along the perimeter of the club and in front of the doorways. The inside is still dry, but the back patio is completely under water."

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