Weather

Rising Neuse puts Johnston under flood warning

Posted November 11, 2009 5:23 a.m. EST
Updated November 11, 2009 10:44 p.m. EST

— A forecast for at least one more day of drenching rains across central North Carolina prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flood warning along the Neuse River from Wednesday through Saturday evening.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Ida blended with an area of low pressure off the coast, bringing several inches of rain to the state Wednesday. The forecast called for several more inches on Thursday and early Friday.

Raleigh reported 3.67 inches of rain between 6 p.m. Tuesday and 9 p.m. Wednesday. Chapel Hill reported 3.53 inches during the same period, while Fayetteville saw 3.96 inches.

"More rain is definitely on the way," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said

Wednesday was the third-wettest day recorded at Raleigh-Durham International Airport since 1944, according to WRAL meteorologist Nate Johnson.

The weather service posted flash flood watches and wind advisories for all but a handful of North Carolina's 100 counties. Small stream flood warnings were posted in urban areas as well.

Property owners near Crabtree Creek in Raleigh, which is notorious for flooding during heavy rains, took precautions as the creek began rising Wednesday morning.

Residents at Brookhill apartments on Dana Drive were evacuated.

“We got up just in time to move our vehicles. Probably, a couple of hours after that, authorities came and helped evacuate everybody and all the buildings,” Brookhill resident Mark Kaziah said.

Car dealers on Wake Forest Road cleared vehicles off their lots and moved them to higher ground. Crabtree Valley Mall managers taped off sections of a parking garage to keep customers' vehicles dry.

"It's pretty nasty, rainy and chilly, but it's not going to slow us down," said Allison King, who was shopping at the mall with her mother. "We're just going to continue to enjoy our time together."

"As long as we don't have any flooding and we get out of the drought, we're good," shopper Kimberly Horne said.

Three years ago, Crabtree Creek flowed out of its banks when Tropical Storm Alberto dropped 5.6 inches of rain on Raleigh in a single day. WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss said the current system is different in that it's moving more slowly and the rain will be spread over a few days.

In Fayetteville, officials were keeping a close eye on Cross Creek, which was also swollen Wednesday evening.

Water rushing into a storm drain in Carrboro caused a 3,600-gallon sewage spill near Rosewalk Lane and Berryhill Drive, according to the Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

Raleigh street crews and state Department of Transportation workers spent much of Tuesday clearing dead leaves from storm drains to prevent the drains from clogging and flooding nearby areas.

Slick roads caused several wrecks across the Triangle Wednesday morning, and the Interstate 440 Beltline was especially treacherous.

A car hydroplaned and flipped over on westbound I-440 between Glenwood Avenue and Lake Boone Trail shortly after 2 a.m., and crews had to cut a woman out of the car. A pickup overturned on eastbound I-440 between Six Forks and Wake Forest roads about 10 minutes earlier.

"We've got a lot of water on the roads. ... You just need to go slow," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. "It's one of those days that, if you don't have to go out, don't go."

Traffic moved along area highways slowly and steadily during evening rush hour.

Winds were gusting at 20 to 30 mph Wednesday, and Fishel said gusts could reach 40 mph late Wednesday and Thursday.

"Those winds are going to be staying as strong, if not getting stronger," he said. "With the additional rain and the wet soil, the potential will be growing for more trees to come down."

Wind gusts downed several trees, causing scattered power outages Wednesday.

A tree hit several cars at the Rock Haven Apartments complex in Carrboro. An oak tree that was more than 40 years old narrowly missed hitting Frank and Linda Hicks' house on Blaney Franks Road in Apex.

"It jarred the ground. We felt it. We both jumped up and said, ‘What was that?'” Frank Hicks said.

Another oak fell on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill campus, blocking the entrance to a classroom building and shattering several windows.

The wind and flood warnings prompted Pender County Schools to delay classes by two hours on Thursday. Harrells Christian Academy is also delayed by two hours Thursday.

The storm that started the week as Hurricane Ida weakened Tuesday after making landfall in southern Alabama. It was downgraded to a tropical depression as it moved east over the Florida panhandle.

Moisture from that system joined forces with a cold front and a separate low pressure system off the coast of North and South Carolina to produce a nor'easter that Fishel said would continue to dump rain on the eastern half of the state into Friday.

The weather service predicted another 1.5 inches of rain in Raleigh by Friday and almost an inch in Fayetteville. Coastal areas would likely bear the brunt of the nor'easter, with more than 3 inches forecast in Beaufort and 7.5 inches in Elizabeth City.

Fishel said the Triangle could see more rain that that, though.

"We're not going to rule out that we're going to have additional heavy rains," he said. "As we head into Friday, it does appear the heaviest rain starts to shift to the north and east, and we will have lighter, spottier rains."

Cloud cover will keep temperatures in the low 50s Thursday and the upper 50s Friday, with overnight lows in the upper 40s.

The skies should finally clear Saturday afternoon, and highs were expected to be in the upper 60s to low 70s on Saturday and Sunday.

"If we can just get past the next couple of days without any major problems, we're home free," Fishel said.