State officials staying prepared for possible flooding; rain shifts to western NC

Posted October 3, 2015 6:41 a.m. EDT
Updated October 3, 2015 11:29 p.m. EDT

— A large area of moderate to heavy rain pushed west of the Triangle Saturday morning, setting up a drier day that could even include a break or two in the clouds.

No widespread power outages or road closures have been reported in the Triangle as a result of Friday and Saturday's rain, but other parts of the state – especially in the southeast and southwest – have had issues with flooding.

“We are not going to see a return of this kind of rain during the event,” WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said. “This will remain over South Carolina during the night, and then during the day tomorrow and Monday it will be making its way to the southeastern part of the state.”

Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials held a news conference Saturday morning to address the latest forecast conditions and what residents in the state can expect over the next 24 to 48 hours. Although Hurricane Joaquin won't add any additional rain as it moves farther to the east, McCrory said state officials won't let their guard down.

"We do have flood warnings in the southeastern and southwestern parts of the state," McCrory said. "We anticipate more of those popping up across the state. Be extremely careful in and around water, because that's where most of the deaths in these types of storms."

North Carolina Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said between 400 and 500 people in Brunswick County were evacuated due to high water. The county declared a state of emergency late Friday night. All thoroughfares into South Carolina from Brunswick County are closed, including U.S. Highway 17, officials said.

Hyde County officials lifted its mandatory evacuation for Ocracoke Saturday, but only residents and essential personnel can return. Tourists are still not allowed access.

"Due to some localized flooding in the towns of Calabash and Carolina Shores, there was an evacuation," he said. "Currently, only eight people are in a shelter at West Brunswick High School. We're going to keep an eye on Brunswick County."

Sprayberry said emergency management officials will also continue to monitor rivers and dams throughout the state as more rain continues to fall on Saturday and again on Sunday. As of 11 a.m. Saturday, about 17,000 North Carolina residents were without power.

In the western part of the state, one minor landslide happened in McDowell County, causing the temporary closure of Memorial Park Road. Landslides remain a possibility, particularly in the western part of the state, where another 3 to 7 inches of rain are predicted to fall in areas in and west of Asheville, officials said.

Despite the forecast for a bit less rain on Saturday in the Triangle, parts of the area remain under a flash flood watch through 8 p.m. Sunday night. Much of the area has seen between 2 and 4 inches of rain in the last 48 hours, and Saturday will be the 10th consecutive day with measurable precipitation at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, two days shy of the record.

A wind advisory also remains in effect for several central N.C. counties until 8 a.m. Monday. Winds could gust to 30 to 35 mph during the day on Saturday, making downed trees a possibility, Gardner said.

"It will be breezier as we get into the afternoon, with sustained breezes at 15 to 20 mph and gusts higher than that," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

High temperatures will be a bit warmer on Saturday, as well, likely climbing into the low 70s during the afternoon.

After Saturday's lull, more steady to moderate rain is likely on Sunday as the area of rain moves back through the state before it heads out of the area.

"The bulk of the rain will stay to our south and west on Saturday, but it will lift to the north on Sunday, so our southern counties have the best chance to see moderate to heavy rain on the final day of the weekend," Gardner said.