Orange County dries out, cleans up after floods

tgrubb@newsobserver.comJuly 2, 2013 

  • Weather outlook

    Rain will continue to fall on the Triangle this week, turning to scattered showers by Thursday and drying out by the weekend, says WTVD News meteorologist Chris Hohmann. The National Weather Service has put the Triangle under a flash flood watch through Tuesday night.

— Helen Buckner walked out of her Brookwood condominium Monday to find her white 2003 Mercedes in the woods and the edge of Bolin Creek lapping at its rear tires.

Two other cars, a Dumpster and two construction trailers sat in water. Other cars pushed together and on top of each other sat at the edge of the parking lot, where the water had left them.

Sunday’s floodwater didn’t make it inside the condominiums but forced evacuations there and at Camelot Village next door, where rescue workers wore wet suits and brought a kayak.

The National Weather Service reported 7 inches of rain Sunday in the Triangle. Meteorologist Chris Hohmann, with WTVD News, said this was the third-wettest June on record for the Triangle at 10.08 inches. The record was set in 2006 at 10.45 inches.

The area remains under a flash flood watch through Wednesday evening, and scattered rain is expected to continue through the end of the week, he said.

Buckner watched the storm from her window, but it still caught her off guard.

“I didn’t realize the water was rising,” she said. “Then all of a sudden, I looked, and cars were just being lifted up.”

At Camelot Village, across from University Mall, water reached 3 to 4 feet high inside some apartments, and a bus took those who were displaced to an emergency shelter, Orange County Emergency Services Director Jim Groves said.

Condemned

Carrboro officials condemned about two dozen homes Monday at the Rocky Brook Mobile Home Park on South Greensboro Street, Groves said. Several cars were full of water, and more than 150 people in southern Orange County were affected, he said.

In Chapel Hill, officials said Tuesday that inspectors had condemned 68 of 108 units in Camelot Village and 22 of 124 units in the Booker Creek Apartments.

In the Brookwood Condominiums complex, 51 units had water damage, they said.

Inspectors were heading Tuesday to the Village Green Condominiums, University Mall and residences along Hillsborough Street.

Carrboro Police Department spokesman Lt. Chris Atack said Estes Park Apartments on Estes Drive Extension reported eight apartments and 10 to 12 cars flooded.

Although northern Orange County, Durham and Raleigh officials also reported some flooding, the brunt of the storm appeared to hit the western Triangle.

Red Cross and emergency officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro expect it to take days to dry out. Many businesses at University Mall, Eastgate Shopping Center and on West Franklin Street spent much of the day running fans and soaking up the water, which in some places reached knee-deep.

The “perfect storm” was a combination of a wet month, full streams, too much debris and “an incredible amount of rain,” Groves said.

The flooding also closed Chapel Hill Town Hall, where first-floor computer and business offices were moved to the second floor Monday. Police spokesman Sgt. Josh Mecimore said all 16 roads blocked by the rain were reopened by 10 a.m. Monday. Only one neighborhood still lacked electricity, he said.

Town spokeswoman Lisa Edwards said people should avoid the town’s greenways, Umstead Park and the Community Center for the next week as crews check for hazards.

“We’re trying to make things passable and to look for any immediate dangers,” she said.

About 40 people who spent Sunday night on cots at Smith Middle School were planning on at least one more night, American Red Cross Triangle Area Chapter spokeswoman Lu Esposito said.

Red Cross damage teams were still assessing short- and long-term needs, she said. Several community groups are helping, including the N.C. Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Ministry and the Salvation Army.

Rocky Brook resident Caitlin Wood, her family and neighbors said they don’t know where they will go. They hoped to get back into their trailers to grab anything that wasn’t damaged.

The mobile home community at the bottom of a steep hill has flooded before, but this time it caught them unaware, she said. Most of the rain fell within two hours. They only had time to grab the dog, the kids and a little clothing before piling into a neighbor’s pickup truck for the ride to the shelter.

They were lucky, she said. Another neighbor lost two chickens in the flood waters, but most things can be replaced, she said. Finding the photos of her children and getting clean were her top priorities.

“I took two showers, and I’m still pulling twigs out of my hair,” she said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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