Steven Bradley knew that the cinder-block building he had converted into a gym and physical fitness center was in one of the city’s most flood-prone areas near Crabtree Creek. But he had just painted the walls of the newly-opened Recycled Body Fitness Center a fine mint green and figured he was good.
“I discussed it with my landlord,” said Bradley, 48, who opened the gym off Wake Forest Road, several hundred yards from the creek, on April 1. “It had flooded six months ago, but before that it had been years.”
Bradley had not counted on a three-day storm that ended Tuesday morning and dropped six to nine inches of rain on the Triangle. Before the rain stopped, Crabtree Creek had swollen well over its banks, flooding the fitness center and several other businesses along this stretch of Wake Forest Road.
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“When I left here Monday evening everything was fine,” Bradley said. But when he returned the following morning, he said he was surprised.
“I was expecting damage, but not this much,” he said.
Bradley’s fitness center and more than a dozen other businesses on the block were closed Wednesday, as their owners and employees cleaned up. Crabtree Creek had retreated, and police were able to reopen the road just before noon Wednesday.
At the El Rodeo restaurant, work shirts were drying along the branches of a small tree outside, and someone had slid about a half-dozen of the leather booths out into the sun, hoping it would dry them.
Bone-colored Queen Anne chairs and a table or two stood near the entrance of Robert Corpew Antiques, while two fans blowing at full blast were trained on the sopping wet carpet at the Snotherly Nationwide Insurance office. Workers at the American Pride car wash power-sprayed mud and vegetation from the asphalt and wiped down the vacuum cleaners and money machines.
Steve Brown, owner of Brown’s Clock Shop, opened his business on this block in June 1991. Clocks for sale hang on the wall in the front of the business, and he does repair work out back. He said the rain left about three inches of floodwater that covered the clock shop baseboards.
“This is the fourth time we’ve actually had water in the store,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve had to empty the store five times.”
Brown, 52, keeps track. Each time the clock repair shop floods, he marks the water line on a white door that separates the sales room from the repair shop. Along with a mark indicating how high the water rose in the shop, Brown records the date and the name of the storm, if it has one. Hurricane Fran on Sept. 6, 1996, was the worst, at 24 inches of water, and below that are the marks for Hurricanes Floyd in 1999 and Matthew in October.
“This last rainfall, I don’t think it had a name,” he said. “We’ll just have to call it the ‘April 2017 flood.’ ”
Recycled Body Fitness Center sits just behind the clock shop, on a parcel of land that slopes about two feet downward. The floodwaters had seeped underneath the gym’s garage-like door and engulfed its 16 exercise bikes, which stood outside in two rows drying after being in three feet of water.
Bradley, with the help of several of his students, had also heaved three tractor-trailer tires, each weighing at least 250 pounds, out front to dry, along with badly damaged audio speakers and musical equipment. The water had pushed treadmills against a wall of the gym, and a large trash bin that normally sits out back had floated about 100 yards away. Floor mats were soaked, and a family member waged what appeared to be an act of futility, mopping up muddy water from the gym’s concrete floor.
“My desk was covered,” Bradley said. “The big tires were floating. These mats are heavy. They weigh 50 pounds each, and they are dense. I came in and saw the mats had been re-arranged by the water.”
Bradley said his business does not have flood insurance, but he said he’s lucky and expects the fitness center to be up and running again soon.
“It’s just material stuff. Everyone’s safe. This stuff can be cleaned up and used again,” he said. “If need be, we’ll have the classes outside.”