Cleanup and damage assessments are beginning in North Carolina’s western counties, but hazards remain due to high water levels and saturated ground.
County officials in impacted areas are conducting initial damage assessments this weekend in their communities and will be joined by state and federal damage assessment teams next week as warranted. These local damage assessments are the first step in determining what, if any, state or federal disaster assistance programs are available to help residents recover.
“Days of rain have pummeled western North Carolina, bringing floods, mudslides, damage to homes, businesses and roads, and most tragically, loss of life,” Gov. Cooper said. “With a break in the rains, communities hit hard can start to clean up, get a better idea of what the damage is, and let us know what help they need to recover.”
Governor Cooper visited Polk, Rutherford and McDowell counties yesterday to view storm damage and talk with local officials and emergency responders.
The State of Emergency declared by Governor Cooper for 33 western counties remains in effect along with transportation waivers to help speed movement of recovery equipment and supplies. Commissioners in McDowell, Rutherford and Polk counties have declared local states of emergency, as have the towns of Montreat and Lake Lure.
“Residents with damages to their property, driveways and private bridges should report those damages to their insurance provider and their county emergency management offices, so they can be included in local damage assessment surveys,” said NC Emergency Management director Mike Sprayberry. “Getting a full and accurate account of damages is critical to making successful requests for federal disaster assistance.”
The North Carolina Department of Transportation reports 35 roads remain closed, down from 50 roads closed yesterday.
A boil water advisory remains in place in the town of Black Mountain while crews work to repair damage to the town’s water system, according to the Department of Environmental Quality.
Swift water and search and rescue teams that were deployed to western counties have returned home, and all emergency shelters opened in the region have now closed. Crews from Team Rubicon, a volunteer disaster relief group comprised of military veterans, are beginning work in Polk County. Those teams are using heavy equipment to help mudslide-affected residents remove debris like large trees, mud and boulders.
Thunderstorms with some locally heavy rains are still possible through the weekend, as North Carolina returns to a more normal summer weather pattern. While river and lake levels are receding in many areas, dangerous conditions are still present. Flash flood watches have expired but flood warnings remain in effect where flooding continues along major rivers.
Recreational paddlers and swimmers are urged to stay out of swollen waterways, and all residents living along rivers and creeks in downstream areas should remain aware and monitor water levels over the next several days. As water travels downstream from the mountains to the foothills and piedmont, minor flooding is occurring in the Carpenters Cove area in Catawba County and around Mountain Island Lake in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties.
Several state parks sustained damage in recent days. Storm damage at Grandfather Mountain State Park has closed some trails and campsites, along with the Boone Fork Parking Area. Chimney Rock State Park has sustained landslides and all entrances to the park are closed until further notice. Mountain bike trails and the swim beach at Lake James State Park are closed due to flooding. The park’s swim beach will remain closed until waters recede.
State transportation and law enforcement officials continue to urge drivers to be cautious when driving and to avoid flooded roads or areas that are susceptible to a washout or slide. Highway crews across the mountain counties continue to assess damage — especially in areas where water is receding — remove debris, clear ditches and handle other essential tasks needed to get roads open.
Portions of four major highways and 31 secondary roads remain closed due to a slide, washout or severe damage, according to NCDOT. On Interstate 40 West heading up Old Fort Mountain from McDowell County into Buncombe County, the far right of three lanes is closed at mile marker 72 and again at mile marker 66. Those may open this weekend. A section of U.S. 221 in Avery County remains closed while the road is rebuilt, a process that may last through June. The northbound lane of N.C. 80 requires continuing attention. U.S. 64/74A north of Chimney Rock will remain closed until that slide is cleared. U.S. 176 in Polk County remains closed as well.
All other road closures are on secondary roads in Avery, Buncombe, Clay, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Macon, McDowell, Rutherford, Polk, Swain and Transylvania counties.
Today marks the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1 through November 30.