Tropical storm and flash flood warnings were in effect in McDowell County Thursday as outer bands of what was Hurricane Michael brought heavy rain into the area.
At 5:28 a.m. Thursday morning, Doppler radar and automated rain gauges indicated heavy tropical rainfall across the warning area. Localized rainfall amounts since Wednesday had been 2 to 3 inches, and several more inches accumulated as the day progressed.
Between 9 a.m. and noon, McDowell and the Town of Old Fort were both placed under a State of Emergency per emergency officials and local ordinance. A Flood Warning has been issued for McDowell until 7 p.m. today.
Many roads in McDowell were closed due to flooding and mudslides, creating significant dangers for those traveling in the Sugar Hill Community, Nebo and Old Fort. By 2:50 p.m., flood waters had begun to recede in most of the county’s waterways, with the exception of Catawba River.
Duke Energy reported 236 outages while REA reported three outages by 3 p.m.
At 7:45 am Crooked Creek Fire Department, Emergency Management and NCDOT responded to 6590 Bat Cave Road to a landslide. Crooked Creek Fire Department barricaded the roadway on each side of this slide due to the potential for this slide to continue further into the roadway. No homes have been impacted by the slide at this point. No injuries noted as a result of this slide. As of 1:40 p.m. Thursday, Bat Cave Road was closed at the county line due to road conditions in Buncombe County, according to McDowell EMS Deputy Director Adrienne Jones.
At 8:05 a.m., Crooked Creek Fire Department, McDowell County Rescue Squad, McDowell County Emergency Management, McDowell County EMS and PG Fire Department responded to the area of 120 Crooked Creek Rd. in Buncombe County due to reports of a potential subject trapped in swift water. McDowell units were requested to respond due to swift water preventing Buncombe County from accessing the incident on their side.
Swift water teams deployed on scene and searched along the river banks, locating a patient who was trapped her car was lifted off of the road and carried downstream. The patient was outside of her vehicle, when swift water teams entered the water and approached the patient. A tree had been swept downstream, pinning her against the car. The patient was able to free herself from the tree, and a rescue rope was thrown to the patient, bringing her to safety on the shore. The motorist was treated by paramedics on scene and transported to Mission Hospital McDowell with non-life threatening injuries.
At 8:47 a.m. on Thursday, a shelter at the YMCA on Grace Corpening Road in Marion opened to the public as a State of Emergency was declared for the county due to excessive flooding. It was later closed at 3 p.m. that afternoon.
In a text message to The McDowell News, Superintendent Mark Garrett explained why McDowell County Schools were not on a delay Thursday morning.
“Buses were already on the road when any water issues started happening. First incident was reported to us at 6:19 (a.m.),” he said. “We were in contact with EMS early. Just sent a Parent Link out to explain current situation. Will spend much of the rest of the day at EOC and looking at road conditions.”
Garrett released this statement to parents and the community at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
“The band of heaviest rain is forecast to move through McDowell County this morning with the best weather of the day predicted for school dismissal times. Please remember that our schools are some of the safest places anyone could be during weather like we are experiencing today. Now that we have everyone safely in school, we do not want to dismiss at this time to put buses and student drivers on the roads during the worst portions of the storm system. If you feel your individual situation warrants that you need to pick up your student early, we certainly understand and encourage you to do so.”
We will continue to work closely with our local Emergency Management agencies and the Department of Transportation to monitor road conditions throughout the day in order to make an informed afternoon transportation plan. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”
McDowell Emergency Management has advised that residents can report storm damage – to structures and private bridges and culverts – at 652-3241 and/or complete the following damage assessment form at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeT1HcrW0ERgY9tSatu3kUDMCs6mJVA8YUV0RShLxZ2LoGZkw/viewform.