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Boaters beware: Storm debris litters Falls Lake

From storm debris to high water levels, boaters are feeling the effects days after Tropical Storm Hanna's departure.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — From storm debris to high water levels, boaters are feeling the effects days after Tropical Storm Hanna's departure.

"I love being on the water. I love working on boats. I'm one of those people who is happy with my job,” boat mechanic Phillip White said.

However, getting around is a little more challenging in the wake of Hannah. Storm debris and garbage are littering Falls Lake.

"If you hit a log pretty hard, you could sink your boat,” White said.

To prevent flooding farther downstream – in places including Smithfield, Clayton and Goldsboro – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not increased releases from Falls Lake, though it is 8 feet above normal. Raleigh got 5.19 inches of rain from Hanna.

The high water, combined with storm debris, means Falls Lake is the most dangerous it has been for boaters in years, said Penny Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Corps. Debris and snakes float on the lake's surface, and below it lie trees that dried during the drought out and tumbled into what is now the lake.

“It's probably the highest I've seen it since Hurricane Fran came through,” White said.

The Corps will need to increase flows later this week to relieve pressure on the Falls Lake dam, Schmitt said. Flows have already been increased from Jordan Lake, which is 6.4 feet above normal.

"So far, so good – no one has really hit anything,” White said of boaters in Falls Lake.

Gov. Mike Easley said there have been no reports of major injuries or fatalities related to Hanna.

State emergency officials are monitoring conditions in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to determine if North Carolina will be affected from other storms.

In addition to the heavy Raleigh rainfall, the National Weather Service reported 4.62 inches in Fayetteville and 5.74 inches in Laurinburg. Rocky Mount received 2.57 inches.


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