RALEIGH, N.C. — Nearly eight inches of rain fell in the Raleigh area and other parts of central North Carolina, flooding roads and low spots Wednesday as the remnants of the season's first named tropical storm slowly churned through the state.
Alberto's remnants were also blamed in the death of Motton Watson, who drowned while playing basketball with some friends. Authorities said the 13-year-old fell into a Franklin County creek near Louisburg and that the water sent Watson downstream, where his head got stuck in a storm drain. He was pronounced dead at Franklin Regional Hospital.
"A ball went into a little drainage ditch on one side of the street," Franklin County Sheriff Jerry Jones said. "When they went down to get the ball, the current pulled one of the boys ... through the drainpipe and under the street. His friend was right there with him, but he just couldn't grab him."
Downgraded early Wednesday to a tropical depression, Alberto pushed into North Carolina at dawn, bringing tornado watches and flood warnings in most of the WRAL-TV viewing area.
By midday, the center of the storm was slowly moving north of Raleigh, where it unleashed heavy rain and high winds, caused numerous minor traffic accidents and forced the closure of Crabtree Valley Mall near downtown.
"The center of this system has sort of been rotating around Wake County," said Brandon Vincent, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Raleigh office. "It'll be overnight before it moves out of North Carolina completely."
Rising Crabtree Creek Forces Mall Closure
Roads near Crabtree Valley Mall flooded as nearby Crabtree Creek's water levels -- normally about 18 feet -- rose to nearly 23.77 feet by 4 p.m., the highest level since flooding from Hurricane Fran on Sept. 6, 1996.
"The mall wasn't too busy, obviously, due to the weather, but we're still working to get employees and customers out safely and to their cars," mall spokeswoman Sandra Geist said about an hour after the mall closed at noon.
She said the ground level of parking -- but no stores -- flooded, and some cars had to be towed to dry land. Television footage and traffic cameras showed vehicles in water up to their hoods.
Emergency crews worked to rescue about 12 people stranded inside the mall as of 4 p.m. The mall was tentatively scheduled to reopen at noon on Thursday, pending water levels in the parking lot Thursday morning.
About 90 children were also removed from a nearby day-care center, and parents were also urged to pick up their children at other centers in Raleigh as rising waters flooded parking lots.
Alberto's Remnants Move Throughout N.C.
One tornado warning was issued for Johnston County, but expired without any confirmed report of a twister. Tornado watches remained in effect for other eastern counties through the afternoon.
The National Hurricane Center's last statement on Alberto, issued at 5 p.m., said the center of the storm was about 25 miles south of Norfolk, Va., pushing northeast at about 25 mph and expected to move off the coast by Wednesday night.
Vincent said the threat of tornadoes would continue as high-level winds continued to swirl.
"These remnant tropical systems -- even though it may not be windy at the ground -- it's kind of hard to kill the circulation aloft," Vincent said. "The winds above the ground can still be kind of strong."
As the storm moved north of Raleigh, radar indicated winds gusting to 60 mph in northern Wake and Franklin counties, he said.
Dozens of flood and storm warnings were issued, expired and reissued from Charlotte and Winston-Salem to the coastline through the day.
Scores of traffic accidents were reported across the state, mostly due to cars skidding into each other or off of wet roads, State Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said. The Highway Patrol responded to more than 250 accidents; Raleigh police responded to more than 80. No serious injuries were reported.
Area Roads Remain Closed
Road flooding was reported across the region, though many streets reopened as the storm passed and drains were able to catch up with the flow.
In Raleigh, flooding was reported in numerous areas, including Glenwood Avenue near Millbrook Road, Salisbury and Edenton streets and Hillsborough Street near the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.
Numerous minor and major roadways were still closed Wednesday evening as crews continued to clear standing water from the streets, including but not limited to:
Wake Forest Road and Atlantic Avenue between Capital Boulevard and the Interstate 440 beltline. Available alternate routes included:
- Capital Boulevard, Six Forks Road or Glenwood Avenue, to get to I-440.
- Glenwood Avenue at Creedmoor Road. Traffic rerouted north onto Creedmoor Road to Millbrook Road.
- Creedmoor Road from Glenwood Avenue to Crabtree Valley Avenue.
High water also shut down several roads in other parts of Wake County:
- Kelly Road near Olive Chapel Road and N.C. Highway 55 and Hughes Street in Apex;
- N.C. Highway 55 near Old Honeycutt Road in Fuquay-Varina; and
- Northeast Maynard Road between Reedy Creek and Chapel Hill roads in Cary.
The town of Cary closed all greenways and trails on Wednesday, which were closed pending safety inspections by town staff. All but one of Cary’s roads had reopened -- Seabrook Avenue from Dunhagen Place to Glengarry Drive -- because of a broken water main, sewer line and storm drain pipe. Officials did not know when it would reopen.
Flooding, fallen trees and power lines were also reported in other parts of the Triangle area, such as Durham, Johnston, Nash and Wilson counties.
Flooding Forces Home Evacuations
Firefighters had to evacuate at least six families from the Cary subdivision of Edinborough Pointe on Maltland Drive after water went over the emergency spill at nearby Lake Lochmere, causing flooding in several homes. Standing water was nearly waist-deep in some areas.
Rising waters also forced other Wake County residents to evacuate, including in Raleigh, where firefighters were investigating a strong odor of raw sewage and gasoline in a Rock Quarry Road neighborhood. By 7 p.m., crews had rescued more than 100 people from flood waters, including 40 people from Grove Park Apartments, a Wake County official said.
A shelter opened Wednesday evening at Enloe High School, located at 128 Clarendon Crescent, for area residents forced out of their homes. No food was to be served, but it was to have cots, blankets and pillows for sleeping.
The American Red Cross of Nash County also opened a shelter at Benvenue Elementary School, located at 2700 Nicodemus Mile Road in Rocky Mount, for residents concerned about flooding.
The shelters were to remain open until Thursday morning, officials said. People seeking shelter were urged to bring the following:
- Identification and important personal documents.
- Toiletries (toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.) and any needed medications.
- Feeding formula and diapers for infants.
- A change of clothing.
- Books, games and simple toys for children.
Heidi Deja, a spokeswoman for Progress Energy, said the utility had more than 2,500 outages in Wake, Johnston and Harnett counties as of 4 p.m. Wednesday. That number was less than 150 by 9:30 p.m. Duke Power had reported no significant outages.
Likewise, the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville had no delays or other problems related to the storm, spokeswoman Jill Denning said.
The weather did cause some cancellations in regard to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Raleigh's RBC Center, including a lawn party and other outdoor entertainment, but the matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Edmonton Oilers started on schedule.
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