Tar River in Rocky Mount reaches 3rd highest level on record

Posted June 18, 2020 3:53 a.m. EDT
Updated June 18, 2020 11:00 p.m. EDT

— In Rocky Mount and surrounding areas, they were watching the Tar River Thursday after days of rainfall have swollen it to major flood stage.

Along Gay Road, rescuers in rafts escorted people from homes surrounded by high water. Early Hopkins was on his way to work Thursday morning when he had to abandon his Bronco; he had to walk a couple of miles to meet his ride.

By Thursday at 1 p.m., the Tar River at N.C. Highway 97 in Rocky Mount was at 27.24 feet, more than 6 feet above flood stage. It was expected to remain above flood stage into Saturday afternoon.

Data from the U.S. Geological Survey, combined with National Weather Service forecast models, show a crest in Louisburg that could reach 22 feet – 2 feet above flood stage – Thursday afternoon. At Tarboro, the crest is forecast to come Friday, with the river rising to 25.2 feet, 6.2 feet above flood stage. The crest doesn't reach Greenville until Monday.

Thursday's Tar River level in Rocky Mount was the third highest on record. In September 1999, after Hurricane Floyd, the river reached 31.66 feet. On Oct. 10, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew, it reached 28.73 feet.

"The rain upstream comes down. It takes four days for it to get from Louisburg to Rocky Mount, so we haven't seen the worst of it yet, I don't think," said Rocky Mount native Ron Barnes.

The National Weather Service has posted flood warnings for Edgecombe, Franklin, Halifax, Lenoir, Nash and Warren counties in the northeastern part of the state, some lasting through Friday.

Stoney Creek was dumping runoff into the Tar River near Country Club Road in Rocky Mount. Parts of U.S. Highway 64 Business, U.S. Highway 301 and N.C. 97 (Atlantic Avenue) and their access ramps were closed through Thursday afternoon.

On Sunset Avenue at Buck Leonard Boulevard, the road and parking lots vanished. Swaths of neighborhoods were inundated, with homes and businesses standing in a sea of muddy water.

Along Westview Park Drive, Pamela Small didn't sleep at all as she watched the water rise around her house. Luckily, it stopped short of getting inside.

"We're blessed not to have any this time," she said.

Rain is again in the forecast daily through the weekend and into next week, although the steady deluge of recent days gives way to just a chance of rain and thunderstorms, mostly in the afternoons.

Flooding, water rescues as rivers rise, roads closed

More than 6 inches of rain fell in parts of Nashville Wednesday in just 24 hours, pushing Stoney Creek past its banks and flooding businesses along West Washington Street.

Rocky Mount and Henderson reported about 4 inches of rain on Wednesday.

Trees were reported down in Youngsville and in Louisburg, near the intersection of N.C. Highway 581 and N.C. Highway 56, and in Harris, in Rutherford County in western North Carolina.

Fire departments across the area spent Wednesday afternoon escorting people by raft from flooded areas and some water rescues continued into Thursday.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.