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Floodwaters Wash Out Railroad Bridge; Charlotte 5-Year-Old Missing

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A stationwagon is swallowed by flash flooding outside the Midtown Square Mall in Charlotte
CHARLOTTE (AP) — Floodwaters washed out a railroadbridge,plunging five train cars into a creek, and rescue teams searchedfor a child missing after a 10-inch rainfall swamped south-centralNorth Carolina.

The worst was yet to come, however. The remnants of HurricaneDanny were expected to reach the state later in the day.Forecasters said that storm could dump 9 more inches on the centraland western portions.

The storm was blamed for one death. Barbara White Freeman, 59,of Gastonia died after being trapped by floodwaters while drivingdown a downtown Charlotte street, emergency officials said.

The CSX coal train went into Little Sugar Creek in Charlotteafter the trestle gave way.

The crew evacuated before the bridge collapsed and five carswent into the creek, spilling about 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel,officials said. A nearby public housing project was evacuatedbecause of the potential threat from the spilled fuel, authoritiessaid.

Meanwhile, searchers looked for a 5-year-old girl reportedmissing after falling in a Charlotte creek, said city spokeswomanJulie Hill. Four companions were found safe.

Emergency crews used rubber boats to rescue 22 people fromflooded homes along Sugar Creek overnight, said Capt. Tim Rogers ofthe city's fire department.

``Everyone in these homes was in peril at one point,'' he said.``The water started to come up real fast, but fortunately we wereahead of the game.''

Rod Gonski, a forecaster for the weather service in Raleigh,said tropical moisture brought into the area by Hurricane Danny wasresponsible for the heavy rainfall.

The heavy rains flooded creeks and underpasses in Charlotte,where a record 6.14 inches fell between midnight at 2 p.m. Stalledcars and tractor-trailers were scattered throughout the city. Up to10 inches fell in other parts of south-central North Carolina.

About 400 residents of Charlotte's Doral and Cavalier apartmentcomplexes, and up to another 100 people living in residences wereevacuated when a nearby stream overflowed its banks, said JohnMcGillicuddy, Mecklenburg County's emergency services coordinator.

Ray Tallchief, a resident of the Cavalier apartments, said itwas the second time in two years he had to evacuate. The same areawas flooded in August 1995.

``We lost our car the last time,'' said his roommate, DerekOliver. ``And it happened the same time both times - at fiveo'clock in the morning.''

About 5,100 Duke Energy customers were without power inCharlotte and outlying areas, and shelters were set up at twoschools. The city's year-round schools were closed andnon-essential city employees were urged to stay home. Power outagesalso were reported in Salisbury, Gastonia and Greensboro.

Aaron Deese, Stanly County's emergency services director, saidthree people were rescued by boat Wednesday from the roof ofAllison Manufacturing, an Albemarle clothing plant. ``The water waswithin a few feet of the top of the roof,'' he said, adding that aflooded creek sent the water surging into the plant.

A county backhoe knocked a hole in a dam on Meadow Creek inLocust to relieve pressure from a lake that threatened to collapsethe dam, said Deese.

``Now they're working on a siphon operation,'' he said. ``Theycut 6-inch pipes to take water out of lake, over the dam, into thecreek.''

In Moore County, a motorist had to swim out of his car whenfloodwaters caught him in a low-lying spot, said George Gullicksonof the county emergency management office.

``He had to roll down his window and swim to a bank. When hegotto the bank, his car was completely submerged,'' he said.

By PAUL NOWELL,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1997 AssociatedPress. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,rewritten, or distributed.

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