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Some Wake and Franklin roads could be closed for weeks after weekend storm

Part of U.S. 401 in northern Wake Co. could be closed for weeks

The N.C. Department of Transportation will have to repair six closed roads in Wake County and two more in Franklin, including U.S. 401 just south of N.C. 98, after weekend storms caused flooding.
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The N.C. Department of Transportation will have to repair six closed roads in Wake County and two more in Franklin, including U.S. 401 just south of N.C. 98, after weekend storms caused flooding.

Crews have made progress repairing and reopening roads damaged by flooding in northern Wake and southern Franklin counties over the weekend, but five roads are expected to remain closed for a while.

The busiest of the five is U.S. 401 just south of N.C. 98, where the Little River washed out two sections of pavement. The N.C. Department of Transportation estimates that U.S. 401 could be closed between N.C. 98 and N.C. 96 for weeks.

Two state highways were among the roads flooded over the weekend. N.C. 97 remains closed where it crosses the Little River between Zebulon and Wendell and isn’t expected to reopen until June 22, said NCDOT spokesman Marty Homan. The river damaged the bridge’s foundation, Homan said.

Meanwhile, N.C. 96, which had been closed in several places, reopened at 2 p.m. Monday, Homan said.

The three other roads that remain closed are:

Moores Pond Road, north of Bud Wall Road southeast of Youngsville. Estimated to reopen June 22.

Billy Hopkins Road north of Fowler Road in eastern Wake County. Estimated to reopen July 30.

Mitchell Mill Road, near Quarry Road south of N.C. 96. Estimated to reopen July 30.

Governor Roy Cooper briefs reporters Monday, June 10, 2019 on damage caused by heavy rains and flooding in N.C. over the weekend including washed out roads and bridges in multiple counties.

While all of the Triangle got some rain Saturday, the downpours between Youngsville and Rolesville were particularly intense, said Chrissy Cockrell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Between 6 and 9 inches of rain fell in that area between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., forcing creeks, ponds and streams over their banks and washing out pavement and shoulders in several places.

“This storm was just one particular part of the cell, and it pretty much exploded,” Cockrell said.

Governor Roy Cooper briefs reporters Monday, June 10, 2019 on damage caused by heavy rains and flooding in N.C. over the weekend including washed out roads and bridges in multiple counties.

In contrast, about 2 inches of rain fell at the weather service office on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh, Cockrell said, and the official total at Raleigh-Durham International Airport was only about a third of an inch.

NCDOT is widening U.S. 401 north of Rolesville and plans to install a larger concrete culvert where the road crosses the Little River to allow more water to pass underneath, Secretary of Transportation Jim Trogdon said Monday. Trogdon said the state will see if that culvert is ready and can be put in place soon to get the road reopened.

Speaking at a press conference, Trogdon noted that a majority of Franklin County residents head south to work in Wake on roads such as 401. They’ll be directed on a detour that involves N.C. 98 and N.C. 96.

“We realize how important this one is to Franklin County,” he said.

Trogdon said the amount of rain that fell in this corner of the Triangle in a few hours Saturday is something that has a 1 in 1,000 chance of happening in a given year and that most of the state’s roads just aren’t designed for weather that severe. Both he and Gov. Roy Cooper spoke about rebuilding in ways that make roads less vulnerable.

“This weekend was part of our new normal when it comes to weather. Sudden and severe weather can strike at any time,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, we believe these things are going to continue to happen, and we need to be ready.”

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.
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