Update: Catawba Falls Campground being evacuated; hundreds without power across McDowell
Update 9:03 pm: According to emergency radio traffic, evacuation was underway at Catawba Falls Campground in Old Fort. Emergency workers continued to respond to wrecks, transformer fires and downed trees. Duke Energy reported 297 customers without power, but that number was before additional calls came in. Stay safe tonight.
Heavy rain continues to impact McDowell County and will continue through the end of the week according to multiple weather monitors.
“Emergency Services have put together plans in the event of rain that has been forecast throughout the week. Staff has been put into place and has been briefed to immediate response. No flooding has been reported thus far, nor over the weekend,” Emergency Services Director Craig Walker said around midday Tuesday.
But that began to change Tuesday afternoon as more rain fell. At one point, water was over Columbia Carolina Road. Firefighters also responded to Mackey Manor Apartments where water was up to the steps, according to emergency radio traffic. At 3:26 p.m., firefighters said it had begun to recede.
A rock slide and downed trees were reported on Buck Creek Road near Geneva Drive at 3:34 p.m. Four large trees and several tons of rocks and dirt blocked the road.
Shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Red Cross announced three shelters were opening in Western North Carolina, including one at the First Baptist Church of Old Fort at 204 East Main Street.
“This makes the third shelter in western North Carolina the Red Cross is operating to provide safe refuge for families in our area whose homes have been or may be impacted by the recent rain,” said Alli Trask, executive director, Red Cross Asheville-Mountain Area Chapter. “We urge our neighbors to take precautions to protect their families and homes but not at the risk of their lives.”
Tuesday afternoon, the city of Marion closed both phase one and phase two sections of the Joseph McDowell Historical Catawba Greenway due to flooding along the Catawba River.
If possible, the city of Marion hopes to reopen the greenway later this week or early next week.
A flash flood watch is in effect through Thursday morning for western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, northeast Georgia and the N.C. foothills. Tuesday afternoon, the watch was upgraded to a warning for at least a portion of the evening.
In addition to the flooding threat, thunderstorms embedded within any bands of heavy rain showers may also produce cloud-to-ground lightning strikes Tuesday evening. There is also a small chance of isolated tornadoes or damaging downburst winds with a few of these thunderstorms, with the greatest chance across the far southwest mountains of North Carolina.
The National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg issued their hazardous weather outlook for the next couple of days, saying the subtropical depression Alberto should continue to weaken as it moves across the U.S.
Regardless of these changes in characterization, Alberto will remain a heavy rainfall producer with an accompanying flash flood risk. An additional threat area will be over the interior Carolinas given further lift aided by the local topography. Given tropical moisture in place over these mentioned regions, intense rainfall may lead to areas of flash flooding, particularly in locations where soils are already saturated, NWS said Tuesday.
In hilly and mountainous terrain, there are hundreds of low-water crossings which can be dangerous in heavy rain. Low-water crossings can be submerged by flood waters quickly and without warning. Never attempt to travel across flooded crossings. Find an alternate route. It takes only a few inches of swiftly flowing water to carry vehicles away.
The additional heavy rain will increase the risk of landslides, especially in areas where slides have occurred in the past. Be especially alert if you are near a stream, especially at the base of a mountain or in a cove. Watch for loose-moving soil and rocks or a sudden increase in stream flow. Leave the area quickly if this is observed. When driving along roads where the terrain is steep or rocky, watch and listen for falling rocks, mud, trees and other debris.
According to Foothills Weather Network (FWN) in McDowell, through Wednesday will be a rinse, wash, repeat of each other and carry the bulk of the precipitation event. With heavy rains, lightning, localized gusts, and the rare potential hail looming, we don’t see any significant temperature jumps. Highs still in the low 80’s and lows still in the mid 60’s with our southerly flow perusing, FWN said about the forecast.
“Starting on Thursday we will see our event taper away and the temperature begin to climb a little to the mid to upper 80’s, upper 60’s for the weekend. While the post-Alberto pattern may subside, the precipitation probabilities will hardly hold back as the ever present and relentless southerly flow ensues,” said FWN. “The big difference in the short-term and long-term forecast isn’t in the probabilities but rather in the amount of rainfall we anticipate. This won’t allow for much reprieve for any impacted areas, so keep on your toes, evolve and maintain a plan of action throughout the week.”
FWN correspondent Dan Crawley said downtown Marion has seen over a foot of rain during May. Since Friday, Pleasant Gardens has had 4.48 inches of rain, 2.71 in Marion. Rainfall measurements can be submitted through hyyps://cocorahs.org.