As the center of Tropical Storm Florence moved slowly into South Carolina overnight, the storm’s outer bands of rain pummeled the Triangle, swelling creeks and bringing down trees and limbs that blocked roads and dragged down power lines.
Florence will creep westward, with the center of the storm remaining in South Carolina, and as it does forecasters expect it will continue to funnel rain into the Triangle through Sunday. The National Weather Service forecast doesn’t call for sunny skies to return until Tuesday.
Wake, Johnston and Harnett counties are under a flash flood warning until 11 a.m. Saturday, and tropical storm warnings remain in effect for those counties along with Chatham and Franklin and points south and east.
Johnston County warned residents southeast of Interstate 95 of flash floods Saturday morning and advised people in low-lying areas or flood-prone areas to seek higher ground. Three to 6 inches additional inches of rain are expected for an area where 13 inches have already fallen, the county said in a news release.
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“Flash flooding is already occurring and treacherous and life-threatening conditions exist,” the news release said.
More than 3 inches of rain fell at Raleigh-Durham International Airport between early Friday afternoon and daybreak on Saturday.
In that time, Crabtree Creek rose nearly 9 feet at Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. The creek was still in its banks at 9 a.m. Saturday, but workers were prepared to close Crabtree Valley Avenue, which runs along the creek behind Crabtree Valley Mall, if the creek floods as expected. The mall parking lots closest to the creek were barricaded and closed Saturday morning.
The rain has been heavier south and east of the Triangle; by 3 a.m. Saturday, more than 8 inches had fallen in Benson, and Goldsboro had gotten more than 10 inches, according to the weather service. And just before 5 a.m., the weather service warned that another band of heavy rain was moving in to Johnston, Wayne and Sampson counties, with another 3 to 6 inches likely by mid-morning.
“That’s going to continue to just pound them all morning,” said Jonathan Blaes, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Raleigh. “There’s already flooding in those areas, and it’s just going to get worse.”
Saturday morning, the N.C. Department of Transportation closed all lanes of Interstate 95 between exits 81 and 65 near Dunn due to flooding.
Rivers in Eastern North Carolina, including the Neuse, Cape Fear and Lumber rivers, are expected to rise to near record levels in the coming days. The Neuse left its banks in Goldsboro overnight and was expected to be at “major” flood stage by Saturday night, according to the weather service.
Some 800,000 homes and businesses began the day without power in Eastern North Carolina, including more than 29,000 in Wake and 26,000 in Johnston, according to Duke Power.
Chatham water plant
In Chatham County, the water plant generator in Siler city went out at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, and customers were being asked to conserve water while a generator was brought in.
“If it works, we should be all right,” Town Manager Bryan Thompson said. “Otherwise, we’ll have to wait for power to be restored.” The town is monitoring tank levels Saturday in case the town needs to issue a boil water notice, he added.
Despite the lingering rain and wind, there are signs of life getting back to normal in the Triangle. GoRaleigh, which ceased bus service Thursday evening in anticipation of the storm, says it will resume its regular schedule Saturday, as will GoDurham. GoTriangle and GoCary will begin their normal Saturday schedules at 8 a.m.
Airlines that had canceled most or all of their flights on Friday at Raleigh-Durham International Airport said they expected to resume operations on Saturday. But Amtrak trains remain canceled through the weekend.
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