More water on the way, flooding problems persist on Triangle streets

ewarnock@newsobserver.comJuly 1, 2013 

After torrential downpours Sunday, the National Weather Service warned that at least 2 to 4 more inches will likely start off the second half of a year that is already 8.5 inches over the norm for the first six months.

It is likely, the forecasters said, that some spots will get 5 inches before the rain clears.

Flooding that began Sunday continued to plague area drivers for periods on Monday, and the town of Chapel Hill closed cashier operations after the first floor of Town Hall flooded.

The weather service has posted a flash flood watch for the entire Triangle through Tuesday afternoon. The region is under “an atmospheric river of moist air,” forecasters said.

Officials in Orange and Durham counties readied for another day of roads closed by standing water when the skies opened.

A section of Homestead Road in Carrboro was under water Monday morning, and people who had been evacuated from their homes and apartments on Sunday in Chapel Hill remained in a shelter at Smith Middle School.

In Raleigh, police rescued a woman whose car was stuck in water on Hillsborough Street near Chapel Hill Road.

Mount Sinai Road north of Chapel Hill was reported closed at one point where it crosses New Hope Creek.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said early Monday afternoon that flooding had displaced about 40 residents and caused some property damage, including Chapel Hill's Town Hall. The mayor's office said all reported issues had been or were being addressed and a temporary shelter for displaced residents had opened at Smith Middle School.

The storm that crawled northeast through the Triangle on Sunday submerged cars and produced muddy rivers in shopping centers and residential areas of Chapel Hill and interrupted electric service Sunday in Orange and Durham counties.

The flash flooding in Chapel Hill created a mess that will take days to dry out and clean up, and the town closed playgrounds in Umstead Park and the Community Center on South Estes Drive for cleanup.

Franklin Street, Camelot Village and Eastgate shopping center were among the places that reported knee-deep water as local creeks and waterways crested following more than 3 inches of rain in two hours.

The National Weather Service said as much as 4 to 6 feet of water had been reported on Franklin Street and Ephesus Church Road.

Among the eerie scenes that visited the area: Chapel Hill police received a report of a truck completely submerged at the Franklin Square office and condo complex.

Trees were felled along Franklin Street, not far from where one killed a UNC student from Cary during a June 13 storm.

About two dozen residents of the Rocky Brook mobile home park in Carrboro were displaced and spent the night with friends or in emergency shelters, Orange County Emergency Services said.

The lobby and bar of the Franklin Hotel on West Franklin Street, as well as its ground-level parking garage, were flooded after torrential rains inundated the intersection near Mallette Street.

“We got flooded pretty hard here," said front desk receptionist Grant Thurston. The hotel never closed, though, he said. “It’s just a matter of drying out and cleaning up some mud and dirt.”

Bolin Creek crested its banks, forcing closure of Umstead Drive and the Exchange Pool in Chapel Hill.

“There are waves rolling down Umstead,” said Shannon Pace, a member of the Exchange Pool.

Water rolling out of Bolin swept debris and creek water into the pool, which will be closed for days as members wait for the rain to end so they can empty, clean and refill the pool.

Several side streets likewise flooded, even those well above the creeks, as sewer grates clogged with leaves and dirt, backing up water in the streets.

Pace, whose mother’s residence is well above flooded Umstead Drive, said her mother had “a new creek flowing downhill in her backyard.”

Warnock: 919-932-8743

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