Heavy rain floods parking lot of South Raleigh businesses

Heavy rains cause flooding in Raleigh, N.C.

VIDEO: Flash floods close roads and strand vehicles as spring storms roll through the Triangle.
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VIDEO: Flash floods close roads and strand vehicles as spring storms roll through the Triangle.

Beth Lasasso stood outside her office at the Tryon Business Center on Thursday with other business owners and employees, watching in disbelief as the driver of a private ambulance stopped at the rippling expanse of water that had turned the parking lot into a lake.

A chilly, windy, torrential rain had submerged the tires of the personal cars belonging to Lasasso’s employees at Molly Maid, who had left in company vehicles to clean and tidy up homes throughout the Triangle. She feared her workers’ vehicles were going to get flooded out in a lot that has become prone to flash flooding after a heavy rain.

“I called them and told them to ‘Come now,’” Lasasso said.

But no one warned the ambulance driver, who was traveling with a passenger from the dialysis center across the street. Lasasso and others watched as the ambulance approached the quickly building water in the lot at the intersection of Durham Drive and Gideon Creek Way.

“The driver paused,” Lasasso said, “like he was thinking, ‘That’s a lot of water in the road.’ Then he made a decision and moved forward. We were all going, ‘No way. No way he’s going to do that.’”

The driver, whose name was not made public by police, did just that. The ambulance moved forward in the watery trap and got stuck in the middle of the lot. The vehicle was overcome by the dirty brown water.

“It flooded out,” Lasasso said. “The water came up to the hood.”

Firefighters quickly arrived and waded into the waist-deep water to rescue the driver and passenger. No injuries were reported.

It was just after 1 p.m. when a tow truck arrived and used a cable to pull the ambulance out of the water.

The ambulance, along with a tractor-trailer truck and about a dozen cars and trucks, were all casualties of Thursday’s heavy downpour. Rex Lasasso said his wife has operated her Molly Maid business out of the offices for the past three years. Hard rains have previously affected a section of Tryon Road in front of the business mall.

“It’s flooded before, but not anything this terrifying,” Rex Lasasso said.

Police blocked off roads leading into the business mall and monitored the flooded section of Tryon.

A man who walked out of International Minute Press peered into the water and wondered aloud if he could stock it with catfish.

No one seems to know exactly why the area floods so severely or why it covered the parking lot and threatened to enter the businesses, where workers were busy lifting items off the floor and onto higher surfaces.

Beth Lasasso, who has 14 employees, said heavy rain had forced the business to close early Tuesday. On Thursday, six of her employees managed to get back before the flood waters engulfed their vehicles. But vehicles belonging to four others were marooned: two Ford Explorers, a Ford Focus and a Durango.

“I don’t know what they’re coming back to,” Lasasso said, while looking at their flooded out vehicles in the parking lot.

Now, she’s having second thoughts about continuing her business in the modest commercial district.

“I love this location, but I can’t deal with this,” she said. “I’m losing business, and my employees are hurt.”

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @tmcdona75589225