Massive rainstorm batters region

Published 7:27 pm Thursday, September 30, 2010

Staff Writer

As wind and rain continued to assail the entire Eastern Seaboard, most of Beaufort County weathered the massive storm saturated — but safe.
Locally, Belhaven faced the worst of torrential downpour and high winds with floodwaters across Plymouth and Main streets, which forced the closure of a section of U.S. Highway 264. Most businesses opted to remain closed for the day.
“We’re starting to see more trees coming down,” said John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-management coordinator. on Thursday. “The DOT, the power company and the fire department are jumping on it when the power lines are deactivated. There are no long-term issues, but we will continue to have problems as long as the rain is coming down with the wind as it is.”
Pack was pleased to report no known deaths caused by the storm system, but there were injuries, some severe, following multiple traffic accidents.
“(The accidents) probably would not have happened on dry roads,” Pack said. “We’ve had so much rain. We have standing water places where we normally don’t have it. Right now, our accident levels have dropped from what they were when the rains started at the beginning of the week. It’s very good news that people are listening and paying attention. We hope that trend continues.”
After initially planning a two-hour delay to the start of the school day, Beaufort County Schools opted to close all schools Thursday and had not decided if they would reopen today. Two schools, Northside High School and Northeastern Elementary School will not open today because of problems with Belhaven’s sewer system, which serves the schools.
The N.C. Department of Transportation shut down its ferry system indefinitely.
Two major power outages were reported in Hyde County overnight. An electric pole on Ocracoke Island caught fire early Thursday morning leaving residents without power for more than three hours.
Some 1,300 customers in Engelhard were in the dark when lightning struck electrical equipment.
“We had a storm meeting (Wednesday), and the trucks have been able to get through to areas and we have not encountered any impassable flooding,” said Heidi Smith, manager of corporate communications at Tideland Electric Membership Corp. Smith stressed the importance of preventative tree-trimming in keeping the power on and the roads clear.
“We haven’t had a lot of down trees, but a lot of tree limbs,” Smith added.
In all, the Beaufort County forecast was looking brighter toward the end of Thursday.
“Overall, we’re really doing well,” Pack concluded. “If we get 40 to 50 mph winds that sustain themselves, trees will fall down. But the good Lord is smiling upon us.”
State Highway Patrol Sgt. J.E. Brewer said five people were in the car that wrecked in Creswell in Washington County. The car hit a patch of standing water, hydroplaned and skidded into a ditch, Brewer said.
The hardest rainfall in North Carolina occurred in Jacksonville, which picked up 12 inches of rain — nearly a quarter of its typical annual rainfall — in the six hours between 3:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
The rain was part of a system moving ahead of the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole, which dissipated over the Straits of Florida on Wednesday.
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.