UPDATE: Heavy rain floods Watauga
by Kellen Moore and Anna Oakes
This morning, with continued snow flurries still a possibility, residents will continue to feel the effects of the massive storm.
On Thursday, Watauga County Schools closed for students, with an optional annual leave day for teachers. The snow day program at Hardin Park is set to open at 7:30 a.m.
The Watauga campus of Caldwell Community College has canceled day classes. A decision on evening classes will be made by 4 p.m.
Two Rivers Community School also tentatively planned to operate on a two-hour delay, with a final decision by 8 a.m. Thursday.
Several roads and bridges may still be impassible this morning, and drivers are urged to use caution due to gravel, mud and other debris in the roads. Wind gusts expected overnight could fell trees already loosened by the deluge.
Here’s a recap of some of the highlights from the height of the storm on Wednesday:
As a result of the storm, numerous roads were reported nearly or completely impassible for part of the evening, including:
— 500 block of North Pine Run Road
— Deerfield Road, which was barricaded at Wilson Ridge Road and at the hospital.
— Faculty Street
— U.S. 321/N.C. 105 intersection near Wendy’s, where water was high enough at one point to cover vehicle wheels.
— Leola Drive and side streets near Walmart
Several minor accidents were reported, including one in front of the police station on Blowing Rock Road and another near New Market Center. Other vehicles stalled due to high water.
— 5:30 p.m.: N.C. Department of
Transportation crews were called to a mudslide blocking one lane of traffic on N.C. 105 headed out
— Around 5:35 p.m., Foscoe rescue crews responded to a person trapped in a vehicle stuck in rising water on Shull's Mill Road near the Hound Ears entrance.
— Just before 5:45 p.m., Appalachian State University cancelled all classes and events on campus due to the flash flooding.
AppalCART ended its routes within the hour, the bulletin said, and cars parked in Raley and Duncan lots were urged to move as soon as possible, the university advised.
— The Watauga campus of Caldwell Community College also closed around 6 p.m., the school reported.
— Before 6 p.m., Boone firefighters responded to assist multiple people in floating or partially submerged vehicles amid flooding near Pride Drive and Leola Drive. Responders described roads in that area as impassible, with water rising above the hoods of cars.
— At 6:08 p.m., firefighters indicated via radio traffic they needed to shut down N.C. 105 Extension at the U.S. 321/N.C. 105 intersection.
— At 6:12 p.m., firefighters were called to Bluebird Lane in Boone to unconfirmed reports of a structure fire. Responding units quickly reported that the fire had been extinguished and diverted their efforts to checking several mobile homes that were in high water.
— Just minutes later, the fire department also was asked to respond to a strong odor of propane near Suburban Propane, as well as individuals needing help at a barbershop and apartment in that same area near Boone Docks Road.
— At 6:23 p.m., rescuers directed their sights toward the Moose Lodge in Boone for people stuck in a partially submerged vehicle.
— At 6:30 p.m., another swift water rescue was demanded for a woman trapped in a vehicle in the 400 block of Bamboo Road.
— At 6:38 p.m., firefighters were called again to a vehicle flooded in front of the Boone Mall thinking another rescue might be in store, but responders determined that the lights were flashing due to an electrical malfunction in the flooded car.
— At 6:44 p.m., crews were called to assist residents of the Bavarian Village apartment complex off Meadowview Drive who were stranded by water in the bottom apartments. Responders reported finding apartments flooded with about one foot of water, and residents were assisted in leaving the buildings.
— Around 6:50 p.m., Boone Police Department released this statement: "All citizens are strongly encouraged to seek shelter in a safe location immediately. Additionally, motorists are advised to avoid driving into water. Travel should be avoided."
— Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Sudderth said just before 7 p.m. that the Red Cross and his office were monitoring the situation to determine whether an emergency shelter would need to be opened.
The number of residents that have to evacuate from homes will determine whether individuals can be placed in local hotel rooms or whether a larger shelter will be needed, he said.
"It's slacking off now, and probably the worst of it's behind us," he said.
— At 7:03 p.m., responders reported that part of Fairway Drive near the golf course was caving in and the road needed to be closed. Bamboo Road also was closed near the airport, meaning any medical calls to Deerfield Ridge Assisted Living or Glenbridge Health and Rehabilitation would take longer than usual.
— At 7:05 p.m., Appalachian State University released the following statement on its website: "If students, faculty or staff are unable to safely travel home because of the flood conditions, please report to the Plemmons Student Union Information desk by no later than 9 p.m. and you will be provided safe shelter. If no one needs shelter at the Student Union, then it will close at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. As of 6:50 p.m., AppalCART has limited routes operating again and will operate unless conditions deteriorate. We will inform you if conditions change."
— Around 7:20 p.m., firefighters responded to another stranded vehicle near Pride Drive, finding one person on top of the vehicle and another inside. Within eight minutes, both people were out of the water, with nearby medics responding to the cold and drenched individuals.
— GDS also was called out to Bradford Trailer Park to move dumpsters that were blocking culverts in the area.
— At 7:23 p.m., the fire department cleared the scene at Bavarian Village apartments after determining that first-floor residents had been safely evacuated. The 500-900 units were evacuated, according to radio traffic.
— At 7:36 p.m., Boone Fire Chief Jimmy Isaacs reported that the gas leak noted earlier at Suburban Propane was worsening and that additional nearby apartments would need to be evacuated.
— Around 7:45 p.m., the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va., indicated that a swath of counties from Watauga through Ashe, Alleghany and into Virginia had been hardest hit by the storm based on estimated rainfall totals.
A weather meter at Howard's Knob indicated that 2.6 inches of rain had fallen in the previous 12 hours.
"We have had some unconfirmed reports in Ashe County of over 6 inches of rain in the last 12 hours," meteorologist Phil Hysell said, adding that he would not be surprised if some parts of Watauga measured the same levels.
The weather service earlier issued a Flash Flood Emergency, a rare type of warning that indicates a "very serious life-threatening situation," Hysell said.
Hysell said at 7:45 p.m. that rainfall rates were diminishing "a little bit" but that residents should prepare for colder temperatures sweeping in behind this rain.
Snowfall may mix with the rain late
Wednesday or early Thursday, with minor accumulation up to about one inch, Hysell said. Winds also
are expected to pick up and could gust as high as 40 mph, he said.
Hysell reminded residents to avoid water-covered roads, because as little as 18 inches of water can sweep most vehicles off the road.
— At 7:53 p.m., the N.C. Department of Transportation was directed toward a landslide in the gravel portion of Tater Hill Road.
— Just before 8 p.m., Boone Fire Department cleared the scene at Bradford Trailer Park after notifying residents to evacuate.
— At 8:10 p.m., crews on scene at Suburban Propane confirmed that propane liquid and gas were leaking from broken valves on two tanks.
— At 8:20 p.m., staff of the Hospitality House in Boone said the shelter had received an unknown number of people displaced by the flooding and were continuing to see more entering. As of 11:15 p.m., 16 flood victims were at the shelter — four families with 10 kids, according to staff.
— At 8:27 p.m, the Watauga County chapter of the American Red Cross indicated on its Facebook page that an emergency shelter would be set up at the Blowing Rock Conference Center, located at 1818 Goforth Road in Blowing Rock. Less than two hours later, the Red Cross announced the shelter was closed.
— At 9:43 p.m., Boone Police Department released this update: “Flood waters have receded in some areas, allowing roads to re-open. However, the following roads remain closed:
Bamboo Road at airport
Deerfield Road at golf course
Dewitt Barnett Road at low water bridge along the Watauga River
A propane leak in the Boone Docks Road area has been controlled.
The threat of flash flooding remains, with a flash flood warning in effect until 12:30 a.m. Thursday. Residents are reminded to remain vigilant, and motorists are advised to avoid driving into water covering roads.”