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Asheville Residents Clean Up After Flooding

10:58 AM, Jan 31, 2013   |    comments
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Candler, NC (ACT) - Mountain residents continue to deal with the aftermath of a major storm system, with flooding and snow concerns this morning.

In the Asheville area, roads that had been closed by flooding are reopened this morning, including Meadow Road near Habitat for Humanity, Cane Creek Road near Mills Gap Road, Swannanoa River Road near Caledonia Road, and Riverside Drive near Woodfin.

More than 6,500 WNC residents were without power as of 10 a.m., according to electric company websites. That's down about a thousand from earlier this morning.

More than 2,700 Jackson County were without power at 8 a.m., but two hours later, 1,875 Duke customers did not have electricity. Duke Energy reported 2,073 Swain County customers were without power at 10.

Other Duke Energy outages: Buncombe, 19; Cherokee, 180; Graham, 785; Henderson, 957; Macon, 275; and Transylvania, 208.

Progress Energy reported the following outages: Buncombe, 134; and Haywood, 30.

One westbound lane of U.S. 74/23 in Haywood County is closed because of a landslide. The slide happened between mile markers 100 and 98 around 1 a.m., according to the N.C. Department of Transportation. The DOT expects the lane to open by 5 p.m., according to a news release.

A National Weather Service flood advisory remains in effect through noon for areas along the French Broad River in Asheville and Marshall. Minor flooding is possible.

A flood warning is in effect through Friday morning for the French Broad River at Blantyre near the Henderson-Transylvania border. The river there is expected to crest tonight slightly above flood stage, with minor flooding of agricultural areas expected.

A winter weather advisory remains in effect through 10 a.m. for Madison, Yancey, Mitchell and Avery counties, with up to 2 inches of snow possible.

A winter weather advisory goes back up at midnight tonight through 10 a.m. Friday for those four counties along with Swain, Graham, Haywood and Jackson counties for a second round of snow expected, with 1-2 inches possible.

Light snow was falling this morning in the Asheville area, but no accumulation is expected, according to the Weather Service.

Snow is accumulating and making roads slick in some areas of the high country. Interstate 26 near the Tennessee border is slick in spots, and about 3 inches of snow has accumulated, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation. In Yancey County, patchy slick spots are being reported on secondary roads. In Mitchell County, main roads as well as secondary roads are getting slick, with some roads becoming snow-covered, an emergency dispatcher said.

Most school systems in the area operated on delays. Madison, Yancey and Mitchell schools are closed today.

On Wednesday, a man escaped with his life after he was flushed through a culvert and flooded roads stalled traffic as heavy storms pounded Western North Carolina on Wednesday.

Hot on the heels of the latest storm system to pummel the area is an icy blast that could bring snow to some areas today. No accumulation is expected in the city.

The National Weather Service reported the heaviest rainfall in the eastern half of Buncombe County, where rainfall totals ranged from 2.5 inches to 3 inches. Both Black Mountain and Montreat got more than 3 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.

Elsewhere in WNC, 5.36 inches of rain fell at Grandfather Mountain and 5.35 inches fell at Lake Toxaway. Those were among the highest rainfall totals in the region as a low-pressure system - after spawning deadly tornadoes in Georgia - blasted its way east through the area.

Multiple stranded motorists were reported after their vehicles stalled on flooded roadways Wednesday. Serious urban flooding was reported in the Biltmore Village area and other areas of the city.

Farther west in Buncombe County, a Candler man was cleaning out debris from a culvert when water pulled him through the 18-inch pipe and swept him under his driveway, rescue workers said.

He emerged on the other side with no apparent serious injuries, said Steve Hensley, chief of the Upper Hominy Fire and Rescue Department.

"He was very fortunate," Hensley said.

The man, whom Hensley described as "good-sized," was taken to Mission Hospital. His name was unavailable.

Hensley said the pipe carries a tiny branch that normally "you could step across." But heavy rains swelled the normally placid water course.

"He was at the head of the culvert and somehow he slipped and got in there, and it just sucked him right through the culvert," Hensley said. "He said he went through there like a rocket. It just washed him right through."

Hensley said the man traveled 20 to 25 feet through the culvert. He suffered some bruises and was showing signs of hypothermia.

"When you get a call like that you expect the worst, and we were figuring we were going to be there a long time," Hensley said.

"Fortunately, he wasn't jammed up in the culvert."

High water, power outages
The heavy rain also created problems for drivers.

Brook Street in low-lying Biltmore Village was flooded between Swan and Reed streets. Sweeten Creek Road was closed between London and Caribou roads.

Asheville detoured some city bus routes because of the weather.

Thousands of people lost power in Henderson, Cherokee, Swain and Transylvania counties as high winds whipped through the area.

A tornado watch was in effect for part of the afternoon. The storm system spawned a large tornado in Georgia before moving into WNC.

Jerry VeHaun, emergency service director for Buncombe County, said high water was also reported on Riverside Drive and Merrimon Avenue. High water was also reported at the intersection of State Street and Amboy Road and also on Meadow Road.

The area in front of Antique Tobacco Barn, 75 Swannanoa River Road, remained closed late Wednesday, as well as Amboy Road near the dog park and Meadow Road near Biltmore Avenue, according to a city police dispatcher.

VeHaun said the reports involve low spots in the road, "the normal place where we see this when we get a heavy rainfall."

Rescuers responded to a report of a vehicle stuck in a sinkhole Wednesday afternoon on Sweeten Creek Road, but it was a stranded motorist stuck in high water.

Businesses were affected, too. Workers at Moe's Original Bar B Que were forced to move their cars closer to the building because of high water east of the restaurant on Sweeten Creek Road. The restaurant closed early but planned to reopen today.

Audrey Lowry, owner of the Rusty Rainbow, a craft shop, had 5 inches of water in her store. Nantahala Bakery was also flooded.


Western counties
Elsewhere in WNC, emergency workers contended with strong thunderstorms packing high winds. A storm knocked down numerous trees and caused power outages in Cherokee County, officials said.

Two schools in the county - Peachtree Elementary and Hiawassee Dam School - lost power, Cherokee County Schools Superintendent Stephen Lane said.

Lane said he had heard of no injuries in the county. A mobile home in the Ranger community southwest of Murphy was damaged, he said.

In Macon County, a downed tree Wednesday afternoon closed both westbound lanes of U.S. 64 west of Franklin.

In downtown Franklin, flooding was widespread during the height of the storm, Franklin resident Bob Scott said.

"I've never seen such a downpour," Scott said. "We've got flooding in the downtown just about everywhere. It's the fastest rising water I've ever seen in Franklin."

One local gauge showed it rained 1.5 inches in less than a half hour after a severe downpour around 1 p.m.

Macon County rural fire departments were kept busy with power lines down and power poles on fire. There were a few reported evacuations.

A family was trapped for a short while inside a mobile home on Jones Ridge Road, said Warren Cabe, Franklin's fire chief.

Several businesses in East Franklin reported up to five inches of water inside and several businesses experienced leaking roofs.

Island Park on the Cherokee Indian Reservation was completely under water and Big Cove Road was closed because of flooding and downed trees.

The forecast today calls for more rain turning to snow in some areas this morning and tonight.

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