Nearly three days of rainfall across the Triangle flooded the Neuse River in Johnston County, pushing the within four feet of Hurricane Matthew levels.
Johnston County Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Madsen said high waters had closed around 50 roads in and 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 roadways had been cut off.
“The good news is the water projections have gone down somewhat from earlier,” Madsen said. “Hopefully they’ll continue to go down.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. Geologic Survey’s Neuse River gauge at Covered Bridge Road near Clayton reported water levels around 18 feet, about 9 feet above flood stage. Farther downstream in Smithfield, the river was at 20 feet Tuesday evening, about five feet above flood stage. During the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, the crest of the flooded Neuse River reached 29 feet.
Madsen said the Neuse was expected to crest in Clayton around midnight Tuesday evening and in Smithfield on Wednesday afternoon. In Clayton, he said the peak was expected to be around 19.5 feet and in Smithfield around 24.5 feet. It eventually crested in Smithfield Wednesday morning at more than 25 feet. More flooding is expected later in the week in the south eastern part of the county.
Madsen said the flooding flowed from heavy rains in Johnston but also from upstream in Raleigh.
“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.”
As the water levels peaked and began to recede Wednesday, Madsen encouraged drivers to respect road closures and never drive into standing water.
“We’re encouraging everyone to turn around, don’t drown,” Madsen said.
Johnston County schools announced late Tuesday that schools would operate on a two-hour delay Wednesday because of road conditions in the county. They opened an hour late on Thursday.
The N.C. Department of Transportation and Johnston County Emergency Management were in constant contact with the school system’s transportation department, Tracey Peedin Jones, the school system’s spokeswoman, said in an email late Tuesday. “Currently, over 50 roads have been identified as flooded or issues due to the flooding,” she said. “The delay tomorrow will give our bus drivers the opportunity to see the roads and be prepared for any issues that may have occurred over the night.”