Flooding threat is real to drivers, crops

Posted October 2, 2015 5:34 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:04 p.m. EDT

— As a steady rain soaked North Carolina Friday, several school systems, including Edgecombe, Duplin and Nash-Rocky Mount, announced plans to dismiss students early, and emergency personnel prepared their flood response.

It is a response simplified, Gov. Pat McCrory said, by the updated forecast path which takes Hurricane Joaquin farther offshore and away from North Carolina.

"The good news is, it was really unpredictable when the hurricane was predicted to hit our coast. Now we have a little bit more predictability," said Gov. Pat McCrory. "That helps us a great deal in determining where to deploy and even keep our resources."

Even without Joaquin, McCrory said, there is still a risk of flooding, erosion and overwash in coastal communities.

“We’re still vulnerable to power outages because of downed trees and landslides because the drenching rains of the past week have left the ground saturated,” McCrory said.

A flash flood watch is in effect for the entire state through 8 p.m. on Sunday, and rainfall rates could be up to 1 inch per hour in heavier showers.

State Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry said state officials are coordinating with local officials to ensure they have what they need in the next few days. Perry said residents should expect flooding in poor-draining areas and low-lying spots.

Officials suggested the following:

  • Be sure your emergency supplies kit has enough bottled water and non-perishable food to sustain each family member for three to seven days. Include a weather radio, flashlight, extra batteries, toiletries, change of clothes, blankets or sleeping bag, rain gear and appropriate footwear. Also include copies of important documents, such as birth certificates and insurance policies.
  • Plan for your pets. Gather supplies for your pet and put them in an easily-accessible container.
  • Prepare your home. Clean out gutters and clear property of debris that could damage buildings in strong winds. Supplies, such as lumber and shutters, should be purchased now, and window casings pre-drilled.
  • Determine if you are in a flood plain or flood-prone area.
  • Know evacuation routes for your area. Listen to local officials and evacuate as instructed.
  • Stay tuned to local news for the latest advisories from the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center (NHC), as well as state and local emergency management officials.

"The highest rainfall totals are actually expected to be in the central and western portion of the state," McCrory said.

A stalled cold front along the East Coast is interacting with an area of low pressure, helping pull moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico into the Carolinas. Parts of western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina could see between 5 and 15 inches of rain. In Raleigh and points east, totals could end up between 2 and 6 inches.

"We're not going to see any real breaks in the rain today," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. "Take your time getting around today, because it's going to be very nasty out there all day long."

Between the rain and breezy conditions, power outages could be an issue because of downed trees or power lines. The National Weather Service on Friday morning issued a wind advisory for much of the area through 8 a.m. Saturday.

"Our biggest concern right now is the rain with the ground already saturated," said Tim Mitchell, with Cumberland County's Emergency Management Service. "Winds are staying fairly calm right now, but if we do get some gust of wind, we're concerned about possibly trees coming down over the weekend."

Winds of 15 to 30 mph are possible, and gusts could as high as 45 mph, according to NWS officials.

McCrory attributed the death of a woman in an accident along Interstate 95 Thursday to the weather. A tree fell on the car in which she was riding.

In Youngsville and Durham, WRAL viewers reported fallen trees where saturated ground weakened root systems.

Downed Trees

The N.C. Emergency Operations Center kicked into high gear Friday morning, bringing together key personnel to monitor and respond to evolving conditions as a steady rain fell across the state.

Representatives from the state departments of Public Safety, Transportation, Health and Human Services and Agriculture, as well as the Office of Emergency Medical Services, the N.C. National Guard, the State Highway Patrol, Swift Water Rescue teams and private sector partners will work together out of the Raleigh Joint Information Center around the clock to gather and disseminate information as the storm moves through the state.

Almost 500 vehicles and more than 1,000 people were escorted off Ocracoke Island Friday after the governor ordered a mandatory evacuation.

On Saturday, the bulk of the rain could shift westward a bit, giving the Triangle and eastern parts of the state a small break from the heaviest rain. On Sunday, however, the area of rain will likely lift back through the state, bringing more moderate to heavy rain to central and eastern parts of the state.

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said rain over the past two weeks had already done about $9 million in damage to the state's peanut crop.