The thin coat of mud on leaves along Clayton’s Neuse River Trail shows just how high the waters rose last weekend.
Still, after Hurricane Matthew dumped 24 hours of rain on North Carolina and the modest Neuse River grew to more than 20 feet deep in western Johnston County, Clayton had to consider itself lucky. For some, power is just now coming back, while others are still boiling water, but Clayton residents will likely remember Matthew more for the destruction it did elsewhere.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve never seen water in some of these places,” Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod said. “I crossed the Neuse River Bridge (in Smithfield) on Sunday, and in two hours, NCDOT shut it down because of water. Two hours after that, it shut down Highway 210. You just don’t understand how fast the water can rise.”
Just because Clayton didn’t spend time underwater doesn’t mean water wasn’t an issue. At times last Saturday, a number of major roads were impassable because of flooding, from Lombard Street to Glen Laurel Road and many roads near the Neuse River. But none of the several hundred water rescues performed in Johnston County were in Clayton, town spokeswoman Stacy Beard said.
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McLeod said he was in awe of the work first responders did around the county during the storm. “We can never give enough thanks to the men and women who truly risk their lives because we’re in harm’s way or made a bad decision,” the mayor said.
After the floodwaters receded and the sun came out, the lingering issues in and around Clayton were water and power. The town managed to get its power customers back online by Monday, but Duke Energy Progress projected outages lingering into this weekend.
A water-boil advisory appeared to confuse many residents posting on the town’s Facebook page. Earlier in the week, Johnston County told its customers to boil water because of a number of broken water lines. That applied to most of the unincorporated area north of the Neuse River and Archer Lodge. Clayton has two water systems, downtown and the southern neighborhoods and then Riverwood and the northern neighborhoods. The downtown system was fine, but at some point, the water system in Riverwood lost pressure, Beard said, and the town advised residents to boil water. Pressure returned fairly quickly, but Beard said the advisory remained in place until the state lab could test the water, which still hadn’t happened by Thursday. In the meantime, residents without water picked up free cases at the town’s two fire stations.
Also in Riverwood, the flooding wrecked several of the bridges along the Neuse River Trail. Beard said the town has no timeline for repairs.
Riverwood resident Travis Martin stopped by the greenway Wednesday afternoon to collect a water sample for the biology department at Wake Tech Community College to take a look at. Martin said he made it through the storm fairly well, as his home is on an higher part of the neighborhood. In his experience, Matthew didn’t blow quite as hard as Hurricane Fran.
“The wind gusts were a lot worse with Fran,” he said.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson