The rain finally stopped falling and streams began to recede in the Triangle, but many low-lying areas remain flooded after a storm that dropped record amounts of rain over three days.
The heaviest rain came overnight Monday into Tuesday morning, overwhelming storm drains and sending creeks over their banks. Flooded roads forced detours and snarled traffic throughout the morning. Among the places forced to close for the day because of flooding were Crabtree Valley Mall and Wake County’s Vernon Malone College and Career Academy.
While the rain tapered off by midday, large creeks were slow to retreat and rivers continued to rise as the water made its way downstream.
The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for the Neuse, Tar, Cape Fear, Haw and Deep rivers. The Neuse had exceeded its flood stage of 15 feet at Smithfield early Tuesday and is expected to reach nearly 25 feet by Wednesday afternoon. At 23 feet, the river inundates Hospital and Buffalo roads and cuts off the town water treatment plant’s access to its reservoir. The river is expected to remain above flood stage until Friday night.
Because of road conditions in Johnston County, the county schools are opening two hours late on Wednesday.
A state Department of Transportation crew working to remove debris from around the support columns of the U.S. 301 bridge over the Neuse south of Smithfield found a body Tuesday afternoon, and it was recovered and sent to the medical examiners office, said town spokesman Tim Kerigan. It’s not known if the person was a victim of the flooding, which otherwise did not result in any reported fatalities.
The weather service says 6 to 9 inches of rain fell in the Triangle since the storm arrived Sunday. The official total at Raleigh-Durham International Airport was about 7.5 inches, more than would normally fall in a month.
Monday was a record day for rainfall at RDU, at 4.51 inches, shattering the previous April 24 record of 1.55 inches in 1944 and breaking the record for most rain in a day in April – 3.37 inches on April 26, 1978.
It was the most significant rainfall the Triangle had seen since Hurricane Matthew last fall, said weather service meteorologist Kathleen Carroll.
“Amounts may have differed here and there, but I think largely the impacts are about what we expected, with lots of rises on the rivers and localized flooding,” Carroll said.
Gov. Roy Cooper urged North Carolinians to be safe.
“In the past 24 hours, we’ve seen rainfall like we haven’t seen since Hurricane Matthew,” Cooper said in a statement. “With rain like this, small creeks and streams can suddenly become raging torrents.”
Floodwaters inundated sewage pipes and pump stations throughout the Triangle. The city of Durham reported two sewage spills, of an estimated 15,750 gallons on Infinity Road and 9,000 gallons on Sparger Road, both into unnamed tributaries of the Eno River.
Smithfield reported a sewage spill at its pump station on U.S. 70 Business East. Crews set up a bypass pump and hauled 22 loads of waste water to another site, but the town still released 20,000 gallons of untreated waste water into Polecat Branch, which flows into the Neuse River.
Franklin County reported two spills in Youngsville and Franklinton, totaling 39,000 gallons.
The Raleigh Public Utilities Department is constructing a new sewage pipe through one of the city’s most flood-prone areas, along Crabtree Creek, to try to prevent water from getting into the system. The $35 million pipeline project won’t be completed until late 2018, and it wasn’t clear Tuesday how flooding affected the city’s sewage system.
Crabtree Valley Mall also lies along the creek, and it announced early Tuesday that it would close for the day because of rising water. Department stores Belk and Sears, with outside entrances, opened at noon. Restaurants with outside entrances also were open Tuesday as well, though the rest of the mall remained closed.
By Tuesday evening, the mall had not made any announcements about whether it would be open Wednesday.
Motorists, residents rescued
The flooding kept police and firefighters busy Tuesday morning. The Raleigh Fire Department conducted a water rescue just before 7 a.m. at the end of Dacian Road in East Raleigh, two miles east of downtown, where a woman and three children were trapped by rising water in their home. The woman reported that one of the children had a high fever and needed to go to WakeMed.
Firefighters also were sent to rescue someone at Crabtree Valley Avenue and Blue Ridge Road.
ABC11 reported that several people were rescued from cars after driving into floodwaters, including on Lumley Road at Rink Road in Raleigh and in southern Wake County near the intersection of Johnson Pond Road and Bells Lake Road, just north of Fuquay-Varina.
The storm did not pack high winds, which reduced the amount of power outages. About 12,000 Duke Energy customers in Wake County and 1,421 in Durham County lost power early Tuesday, but it had been restored across the region by Tuesday afternoon. Most of the outages were in eastern Wake.
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett