Weather

Rescuers pluck people from flood waters

Posted October 1, 2010 5:30 a.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2010 4:25 p.m. EDT

— Flash floods overnight and rising rivers and creeks prompted numerous swift-water rescues and partial evacuations of some counties Friday, in the aftermath of  a massive storm that dumped 10 or more inches of rain and caused widespread flooding in eastern North Carolina.

State public-safety officials said that numerous people have been rescued from vehicles and homes since early Friday, though they couldn't give an exact number of rescues.

Evacuations have been ordered in some low-lying areas of Beaufort, Craven, Duplin and Pender counties. The state and Red Cross have opened shelters.

Dozens were evacuated from a Beaufort County mobile home park, between Washington and Greenville, assistant county manager Jim Chrisman said. About three dozen people total were being housed at a Red Cross shelter.

About 50 people in New Bern needed help from boat-borne rescuers to get out of their homes Thursday, when flooding reached 5 feet in some spots, Deputy Fire Chief Bobby Boyd said.

Bertie County has been hard hit, with many areas surrounded by water. Sheriff John Holley said that flash floods hit Windsor overnight, where the Cashie River was also nearly double its flood stage.

Crews used hovercraft to rescue people trapped in cars and homes by swift-moving flood waters. First Response Team founder Ted Agoglias described the rescue of a man who tried to make his way through the currents on foot.

“He was standing there, hanging on to nothing,” said. “When we got him in the hovercraft, he just held onto me. I’ve never had a full-grown man hold onto me like that, where all I could feel was his body shaking.”

By morning, the town about 120 miles east of Raleigh was covered in 4½ feet of still-rising water, Holley said. Authorities were monitoring the situation at a rest home surrounded by water, and the National Guard and other emergency response crews had been called out in case their help was needed.

"I've been told that there are people on their roofs, trying to get rescued," Windsor resident Kim Hickman said. "It's taking a while to maybe get some people rescued, but they are doing it."

Hickman said that she came into the Bertie County town on a boat to try to protect her newly bought business, Ivy Lane Florists.

In Carolina Beach, flooding in downtown had subsided a few feet Friday morning, but town manager Tim Owens estimated that it would take until the weekend to pump out water that overflowed from an 11-acre retention pond.

"I'm afraid of the mess left behind when the water goes away," Carolina Beach resident Leslie Bivans said.

Owens said he expected to find minor flooding damage to garages, basements and low-lying structures.

Additional pumps have been brought in, bringing to eight the number that are removing water at the rate of 13 million gallons a day, he said. About 150 million gallons of water were in the pond before the storm, and the town began pumping it out on Monday.

State environmental officials warned that chemicals and untreated waste would likely pollute coastal waters as towns like Carolina Beach and Bald Head Island pumping flood waters into the surf.

“Waters impacted by this unusual storm event can contain elevated levels of bacteria that can make people sick,” said J.D. Potts, manager of the Recreational Water Quality Program. “flood waters and stormwater runoff can contain pollutants such as waste from septic systems, sewer line breaks, wildlife, petroleum products and other chemicals.”

Roads, schools closed for floods

More than 125 roads have been closed due to flooding from Thursday's storm, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The road closures were concentrated in a swath of coastal counties from Brunswick County north to Hertford County. A few flood-related road closures were reported as far inland as Johnston County.

DOT officials said that all major interstates are open but numerous state and local roads and bridges are closed.

About 20 roads were closed Pender County and five roads in Brunswick County were closed due to flooding. Goldsboro police closed Elm Street and Hillside Drive as Stoney Creek overflowed its banks Friday morning. Areas along other tributaries of the Neuse River in the Goldsboro could experience flooding.

In Wilson, Cortentnea Creek was four feet over flood stage and was threatening to flood N.C. Highway 42 and Sadie and Rock Ridge School roads. Levels in the Wiggins Mill Reservoir are also expected to rise.

DOT identified some major road closures:

  • Bertie County – U.S. Highway 17 in Windsor
  • Duplin County – N.C. Highway 41 near Beaulaville, N.C. Highway 50 near Wallace
  • Pender County – N.C. Highway 210 east of Burgaw, N.C. highways 50 and NC 53 at Maple Hill
  • Hertford County –U.S. Highway 13 south of Ahoskie
  • Craven County – N.C. Highway 118 near Vanceboro
  • Pasquotank County – N.C. Highway 344 south of Elizabeth City, U.S. Highway 158 in Elizabeth City
  • Beaufort County – U.S. Highway 264 east of Washington Park
  • Brunswick County – N.C. Highway 211 south of Bolivia
  • Onslow County – N.C. Highway 111 south of Jacksonville, N.C. Highway 172 near Swansboro, N.C. Highway 50 near Holly Ridge and N.C. Highway 53 west of Jacksonville

Closed roads and receding flood waters prompted officials to delay or close schools Friday. Schools in southern, coastal counties – Brunswick, Duplin, Onslow and Pender counties – were closed. Systems opening two hours late include Northampton, Sampson and Wayne county schools.

Marine commanders closed schools at Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station and directed military and civilian workers to delay reporting to base for two hours.