As Subtropical Storm Alberto continues to bring heavy rains, flooding and the potential for landslides to North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper urged residents to take seriously the storm, which has claimed two lives in the state.
Two people died earlier today in Polk County due to storm conditions when a tree landed on their vehicle as they travelled along U.S. 176. The victims have been identified as news anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer, both with South Carolina television station WYFF and in the area to cover the storm. The State Highway Patrol is investigating the incident and will release more information as they are able.
"Two journalists working to keep the public informed about this storm have tragically lost their lives, and we mourn with their families, friends and colleagues," Gov. Cooper said. "North Carolina needs to take Alberto seriously. I urge everyone to keep a close eye on forecasts, warnings and road conditions, especially in western North Carolina where even heavier rain is predicted through tomorrow."
State Public Safety officials are coordinating with local officials and cautioning residents to monitor forecasts and warnings closely as heavy rains from Alberto further saturate North Carolina causing flash flooding and increasing the potential for landslides.
State Transportation officials expect that U.S. 176 will remain closed until at least Tuesday afternoon between Harmon Field Road and Ozone Drive in Polk County due to flooding and the fallen tree which caused the fatalities earlier today.
Elsewhere in the mountain counties, NCDOT will continue to monitor roadways for potential flooding and landslides because of already saturated ground from rain that fell during the past week. There are also concerns that some roads could flood in the eastern part of the state, where crews will be on standby to shut down roads that become unsafe because of floodwater.
Much of the state remains under a Flash Flood Watch that has been extended through Wednesday morning. State Emergency Management meteorologists predict rainfall totals to reach 3-to-6 inches statewide with locally higher amounts possibly reaching 8 inches along the eastern and southern slopes of the mountains over the next few days.
Already, minor flooding is occurring along the Roanoke River near Roanoke Rapids and officials are closely monitoring the Roanoke River near Williamston. Minor flooding is anticipated along the Cape Fear River at Wilmington from Tuesday morning through Wednesday and near Burgaw on Friday. In western North Carolina, minor flooding is expected along the French Broad River near Blantyre on Wednesday. Public safety officials also are closely monitoring the French Broad River at Asheville and Fletcher. Rainfall could lead to additional landslides across western NC where some of the greatest accumulations are expected.
"Emergency management and law enforcement officials are working closely to respond to any trouble spots," Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said. "We urge North Carolina residents and visitors to monitor local weather forecasts and heed warnings from local officials."
Information is also available at ReadyNC.org and at the ReadyNC mobile app which can be downloaded for free.