Halifax County flooding hits homes and hospital, closes highways

jshaffer@newsobserver.comAugust 26, 2012 

— A foot of rain pounded Roanoke Rapids on Saturday, washing out streets, forcing more than 50 evacuations and shutting down Interstate 95 for several hours.

No injuries were reported in the flooding, which sent roughly 52 people to an emergency shelter for much of Saturday. By sundown, the shelter had closed with the last four people relocated to temporary housing, but water flowed 2 feet deep over parts of the Halifax County town.

The flood found its way into the basement of Halifax Community Hospital.

“It got to my second step,” said Patricia Brown, 53. “We lost most of the stuff in the garage, but it didn’t get inside the house.”

Interstate 95 closed for several hours in both north and southbound lanes, and the traffic remained snarled 12 miles outside of town by Saturday night. Chockoyette Creek flowed over a bridge just south of exit 173.

Both U.S. 158 and N.C. 48 closed, and the National Weather Service reported at least a dozen roads under water.

“I’m standing on a second-story balcony, and all I see is water,” said James “June” Joyner, 20. “It looks like a pond right now.”

Heavy rain lasted about four hours, starting about 3:30 a.m. A rain gauge about two miles north of Roanoke Rapids showed 11.5 inches of rain in 24 hours, the weather service said. The Wilson-Rocky Mount Airport reported 2.36 inches of rain between midnight and 7 a.m.

The Roanoke River rose about 7 inches above its 9-foot flood stage in Roanoke Rapids at mid-morning Saturday, falling back below by early afternoon.

The storm washed out part of Franklin Street in Roanoke Rapids, creating a massive sinkhole when a retaining wall collapsed. Residents stood alongside the hole snapping pictures.

Brittany Whitlow, 19, said many of her neighbors on Taft Street near the river were evacuated.

“You can’t turn down certain roads,” she said. “I know of at least two of them that are washed out.”

Emergency responders trained in swift-water rescue evacuated people where homes flooded. The state Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh reported that officials there were monitoring the situation, but no state resources had been requested to help Halifax agencies.

Shafer: 919-829-4818

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