As a deluge makes its way to the coast after days of rain in the Piedmont, the Neuse and Tar rivers remain above flood stage in some places in Eastern North Carolina.
While Crabtree Creek has returned to its banks in Wake County, the 6 to 9 inches of rain that fell in the Triangle after the storm arrived Sunday is causing headaches downstream.
“We’re grateful that the rains have ended and the sun is back out, but communities in Eastern North Carolina cannot let their guard down,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement Wednesday. “Forecasters are still predicting some of our rivers to crest today or as late as Monday, and we need to remain alert for more flooding.”
In Johnston County, the Neuse at Smithfield exceeded its 15-foot flood stage Tuesday and continued to rise, reaching nearly 25 feet Wednesday afternoon. At 23 feet, the river flooded Hospital and Buffalo roads and cut off the town water treatment plant’s access to its reservoir. The river is expected to remain flooded above 15 feet until Friday night. The Neuse in Smithfield broke records during Hurricane Matthew when it rose above 29 feet.
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Johnston County Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Madsen said high water had closed a number of roads around Swift Creek and the Neuse River. On Tuesday, his office performed several water rescues of people trapped in their cars or in homes where roads had been cut off.
“A lot of the rainfall is from the west of us, but we’ve had a lot of rain locally,” Madsen said. “Raleigh is seeing Hurricane Matthew levels or higher; they didn’t get as much rainfall as us during Matthew, but they’re definitely seeing more rainfall now. And all of that is flowing downriver to Johnston.”
Johnston County schools will open an hour late Thursday, to ensure that bus drivers can see any hazards that might remain on the county’s roads.
The Neuse in Kinston began rising sharply on Monday and was expected to hit its flood stage of 14 feet on Wednesday and continue rising to 17 feet by Sunday, according to the weather service.
Edgecombe County Public Schools canceled school for students and staff on Thursday due to high water and flooding. The Tar River flows through Edgecombe and was expected to crest at nearly 27 feet in Rocky Mount early Thursday morning.
Rocky Mount emergency responders completed 16 rescues as of Wednesday morning, and a shelter was opened in Tarboro at St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church, 100 St. Patrick St.
The Tar River in Greenville was set to hit its 13-foot flood stage Wednesday evening and continue to rise to major flood stage of more than 19 feet by Saturday.
The Tar River near Louisburg surpassed its major flood stage of 23 feet Wednesday, but was expected to drop sharply by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. But farther down the river, water is expected to rise to major flood stage on Thursday in Rocky Mount and on Friday in Tarboro.
A full list of flood gauges can be found at the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service website.
The official rainfall total at Raleigh-Durham International Airport this week was about 7.5 inches, more than would usually fall in a month. It is the most significant rainfall the Triangle has seen since Hurricane Matthew last fall, said weather service meteorologist Kathleen Carroll.
Monday was a record day for rainfall at RDU, at 4.51 inches, shattering the previous April 24 record of 1.55 inches in 1944 and breaking the record for most rain in a day in April – 3.37 inches on April 26, 1978.
Wake Forest gets breach scare
The Town of Wake Forest and Wake Emergency Management got a brief scare from the privately owned Lewis Dam at 2501 Forest Lake Court, which threatened to breach as stormwater caused the small pond to swell.
Wake County Emergency Management had issued a warning Tuesday evening to approximately 45 residents that there was a potential for a dam breach, said Wake Forest spokesman Bill Crabtree. Residents were told they could evacuate as a precaution if they chose to, he said.
The threat eased Wednesday as the flow of water from the pond subsided, and no evacuations were necessary.
The earthen dam, built in the 1930s to hold back 10 acres of water, is owned by the Fairlake Community Homeowners’ Association. It was inspected Tuesday morning by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and officials from Wake Forest and Wake County.
The inspection determined that high water velocity was causing significant bank erosion just downstream of the earthen dam, and if the erosion had continued it could have compromised the integrity of the dam, Crabtree said.
Work crews used approximately 200 sandbags to reinforce the dam and two six-inch pumps to reduce the flow of water. The pumps will continue to operate for the next several days, and inspectors will continue to monitor the dam.
The affected homes are on McGowan Court, Palmer Court and Hogan Drive. The area is off Capital Boulevard and Purnell Road.
Drew Jackson contributed to this report.
N.C. Department of Emergency Management tips for flooding safety:
▪ Never drive into flooded areas or across flooded roads.
▪ Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of fast moving water can knock over an adult.
▪ Follow detours and obey traffic barricades that close off roads.
▪ Never park or camp along streams, rivers or creeks.