Wet, getting wetter

Published 7:22 pm Thursday, September 30, 2010

Staff Writer

A flood warning was issued for Beaufort County on Wednesday as more tropical moisture overspread the area, dumping at least 2 to 3 inches of rain on already-saturated ground by early afternoon.
By midafternoon, a flood watch covered much of eastern North Carolina, and more flooding downpours were expected Wednesday night into this morning.
A low-pressure area formed well south of the state and began moving north along a stalled front, squeezing more moisture over the region as Tropical Storm Nicole lurched on an anticipated trek up the southeast coast.
“Obviously, we expect to have some stormwater-level flooding,” said John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-management coordinator.
By afternoon, it was thought the worst of Nicole would stay offshore, deflected by the stationary front that had parked over the east, but the tropical storm could morph into an “extratropical” system and keep the front in place long enough to deliver even more of a drenching locally, according to Pack and reports from the National Weather Service.
Locally, winds were forecast to reach 25 to 30 mph overnight, which could tax weak, soaked root structures and topple some trees, Pack warned.
“We could have power outages; we could have situations where we have trees down on houses,” he said as the weather went farther downhill Wednesday.
The county’s first responders were prepared to do their jobs in the event of severe weather, Pack related.
He urged people to stay off area roads Wednesday night and exercise caution on the way to work or school this morning.
Beaufort County’s public schools are on a two-hour delay today, said Beaufort County Schools spokeswoman Sarah Hodges.
“If we see the need to adjust that, we will,” said Hodges, who added school personnel were monitoring road conditions and staying in touch with local law enforcement.
Any further changes in the schools’ schedules will be sent out via an automated system that forwards prerecorded messages to parents’ phones, according to Hodges.
Washington fire Chief Robbie Rose said his department had responded to some vehicle accidents that were more than likely weather-related.
“Not a high number of them, but certainly the potential for them is out there,” Rose said Wednesday.
Like Pack, Rose advised drivers to take care.
“I guess my biggest statement on that was handle this just like you would handle any other adverse-weather situation,” he commented. “If you don’t have to be out, don’t get out. … Take extra precautions. Give yourself extra time and drive at a slower speed if you have to drive in this weather.”
In Belhaven, Town Manager Guinn Leverett said town officials had been told to expect 46- to 57-mph wind gusts, a 2- to 4-foot storm surge and 4 to 6 inches of rain through the duration of the storm.
Town employees had moved some cars to ensure a clear path for emergency vehicles, should overflowing waters make their use necessary, Leverett said.
“Heavy weather’s coming our way,” he stated. “It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last time. … We’ve been through enough that we’re not being cocky, though. There’s no reason to panic, but there’s no reason not to keep a weather eye out on the storm.”
Many of the same Washington streets that flooded during Monday’s heavy rains flooded again Wednesday morning and afternoon, and city crews were out placing traffic cones at treacherous locations like the swamped intersection of East 12th and Market streets.
The cones on Market Street were there to warn motorists they would travel over the flooded street at their own risk, said city worker John Cooper.
By Wednesday, ditches had begun filling up alongside Heritage Park apartments off Minuteman Lane, and portions of some yards were under a few inches of water in the blocks between 15th and Fifth streets, sparking fears that residential flooding could threaten people overnight and this morning.
Part of a parking lot near the Washington Wal-Mart was under enough water to cover a third of a shopping cart, and some drivers veered around the deluge on their way to Carolina Avenue.
Minor flooding also was evident on Whichard’s Beach Road near Fountain Powerboats by early afternoon.