Boone begins flood cleanup
by Kellen Moore
Boone resident Anna Miller spent most of Thursday sweeping mud from her apartment floor, scrubbing salvageable items and trying to save waterlogged electronics.
Miller, a junior at Appalachian State University, is among dozens of Watauga County residents who will fill the coming days with cleanup duties after serious flash flooding Wednesday evening.
The rapidly rising water caused a number of potentially life-threatening situations, including flooded homes, a propane leak and several swift-water rescues from submerged vehicles.
“We were a little bit of everywhere yesterday,” Boone Fire Chief Jimmy Isaacs said Thursday. “We just got spread pretty thin there for a little while.”
Bradford Trailer Park off Brook Hollow Road and Bavarian Village apartments off Meadowview Drive in Boone were among the hardest-hit areas.
Bavarian Village Manager Shirley Nelson said about a dozen apartments incurred water damage, and about 112 apartments in the 500-900 buildings were evacuated due to a propane leak at Suburban Propane nearby.
“No one’s hurt,” she said gratefully. “That’s the main thing.”
Nelson said the apartment complex would get the buildings cleaned up, a process she said would likely take about five days.
Miller, who lives in the 700 building, said she left her apartment at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for dinner with her boyfriend. By the time her roommate returned around 6:30 p.m., the bottom floor was about two feet underwater.
“She tried to flip on a few light switches and got shocked every time she did,” Miller said.
When she returned Thursday morning, the dishwasher was filled with muddy water and the refrigerator had a ring of dirt on the bottom crisper drawers. The kitchen floor was covered in gunky mud and pine needles, and the carpet squished with each step.
“It got so wet that the carpet’s peeling away from the side of the wall,” she said.
Max Bridge, another Bavarian Village resident, watched as the water crept within feet of his front door but never got inside. The water was beginning to recede when he was forced to evacuate anyway due to the propane problems.
Bridge said he could detect a strong gas odor from his apartment.
“I’m glad I quit smoking, I’ll put it that way,” he said.
The Boone Fire Department was called to Suburban Propane on Boone Docks Road around 6:15 p.m. Wednesday and later determined that propane liquid and gas were leaking from broken valves on two tanks.
Officials from Suburban Propane could not be reached by press time Thursday, and it’s not clear how much propane leaked. Boone Police Department reported at 9:43 p.m. that the leak had been controlled.
Firefighters also evacuated numerous residents from Bradford Trailer Park, many of whom flocked to the nearby Hospitality House for shelter.
Lynne Mason, executive director of the Hospitality House, said four adults and 10 children from the mobile homes stayed until the waters receded enough to return home around 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Another five stayed overnight for a total of 19 served. The Hospitality House lined up cots in its dining room and offered food and hot showers for anyone in need.
“I don’t know if some of the homes there are now uninhabitable, so I don’t know what that’s going to bring,” Mason said.
Around 8:30 p.m., the Red Cross announced that it would set up an emergency shelter at Blowing Rock Conference Center on Goforth Road. Less than two hours later, the Red Cross closed the shelter after no one sought help.
Appalachian State University also took steps to offer shelter, inviting any displaced students into the Plemmons Student Union.
One student did seek shelter just before 9 p.m. and was set up in a vacant residence hall room, said Jane Nicholson, director of university news. The campus experienced a few roof leaks and erosion damage but nothing too severe.
“The big shock that everybody has, of course, is Durham Park, but Durham Park did was it was supposed to do,” Nicholson said, explaining that the park is meant to retain storm water in extreme conditions.
Drivers trapped in storm
Some of those who weren’t home when the rains started also had to be evacuated — as their cars stalled and filled with water.
The Boone Fire Department received 33 calls for service within four hours, and 19 of those calls were swift-water-rescue-related, Isaacs said.
While some of those swift-water calls were assisting people from homes, many others involved rescues from cars that attempted to drive flooded roads.
Several of those responses occurred on Bamboo Road near the airport and near Leola Street behind Walmart, he said. Some of the victims were treated at the scene for hypothermia, but Isaacs said he did not believe any people were hospitalized or seriously injured.
The Foscoe Fire Department also had one swift-water rescue call for a vehicle trapped on Shull’s Mill Road near the Hound Ears entrance.
Amid the commotion, the Boone Fire Department even received a call for a possible structure fire on Bluebird Lane at 6:12 p.m., but responding units found the furnace fire had already been extinguished, Isaacs said.
Several other agencies also stepped in to help, including Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue, Watauga Rescue Squad, Foscoe Fire Department and Deep Gap Fire Department, Isaacs said. The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and Boone Police Department also provided assistance throughout the night.
Road, organization closures persist
Responders spent much of the evening blocking hazardous roads, including Deerfield Road near the Moose Lodge and Bamboo Road near the airport. Fairway Drive also closed as part of the road washed away.
Witnesses even reported — and filmed —
water levels above the wheels of many vehicles at the U.S. 321/N.C. 105 intersection near
N.C. Department of Transportation and Boone Public Works crews stayed active throughout the night, responding to mudslides on Tater Hill Road, N.C. 105 and numerous other areas, clearing culverts and helping where needed.
While most of the serious
flooding had subsided by 9 p.m., several of the roads remained impassible overnight and into the
Appalachian State University cancelled all classes and events just before 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, and AppalCART buses temporarily stopped traveling. The campus reopened on a normal schedule Thursday.
The Watauga campus of Caldwell Community College also closed around 6 p.m. Wednesday and remained closed until evening classes on Thursday. Watauga County Schools and Two Rivers Community School also both closed Thursday.
With exactly 225 telephone calls received by the Boone 911 Communications Center alone — not including those received by the county — Watauga County stayed hopping throughout the night.
“I am so thankful that we have such a dedicated town staff to respond to an event like this,” Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson said. “I’m also thankful for the numerous emergency volunteers that assisted in and around Boone during the flash flooding.”