River flooding next worry for parts of N.C.

Published 6:30 am Saturday, March 22, 2003

By Staff
By PAUL NOWELL Associated Press Writer
CHARLOTTE -- Rising water became the chief concern Friday across North Carolina as storm runoff swelled creeks and rivers over their banks. Water flooded a textile plant and threatened to cut off power to a Gaston County town.
Water from the South Fork of the Catawba River partly submerged a substation that serves the Pharr Yarn mill in McAdenville and the town.
Mill officials met with Duke Power Co. workers, but decided electricity did not have to be cut off.
He said plant officials have faced a similar problem twice before in the past 10 years. ''We have a plan for it,'' he said.
Flood stage at nearby Lowell is 10 feet and the river crested at 15.9 feet Friday morning, the National Weather Service said. The river is expected to remain above flood stage before falling early Sunday.
Earlier, the NWS said the river was expected to crest at 16.8 feet. Burrus said his records show the last time the Catawba approached 17 feet at Lowell was in 1970. The river also got that high in September 1945, he said.
The National Weather Service also said the Tar, Cape Fear and Neuse rivers were expected to rise above flood stage Saturday. The Tar River was expected to crest over flood stage Saturday, threatening several riverside businesses.
The Neuse River near Goldsboro was expected to crest Tuesday, which could lead to road flooding near Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
There's no mystery about where all the water came from, as a widespread system dumped four or more inches of rain over a wide swath of the Piedmont and other parts of North Carolina on Thursday.
The town of Vale reported 4.4 inches of rain, while Statesville got more than four inches and so did Shelby in Cleveland County. Burrus said the rainfall came from the same weather system that dumped several feet of snow in Colorado earlier this week.
For Gaston County, it's a far cry from the drought conditions that have persisted for years.
Two to five inches of rain fell over 30 hours in the Charlotte region on Thursday, moving it closer to the end of a five-year drought. The rain gauge at Piedmont Triad International Airport registered 2.72 inches in a 24-hour period.
Since August, precipitation in Charlotte is about five inches above normal. More than 5.8 inches of rain already has fallen this month in Charlotte, which averages 4.4 inches in March.
One of the hardest-hit areas of the state was Statesville, where flooding forced officials to close Interstate 40 just west of I-77 for more than five hours Thursday. Several drivers had to be rescued as their cars started to float away.
Officials evacuated homes, businesses and an assisted-living facility in Iredell County on Thursday. Guests at the Holiday Inn in Statesville waded through knee-deep, muddy water.
More than 300 people were evacuated from apartments on Winston-Salem's Bethania Station Road after rising water from Mill Creek began pouring into first-floor apartments.