Slick roads causing fatal accidents, school delays
RALEIGH -- Days of consecutive rain has created flooding concerns for central and coastal parts of the state.
Rain bands from what was once Tropical Storm Nicole continued to move across North Carolina until late Thursday, dumping more rain on already saturated ground. Governor Beverly Perdue issued a state of emergency on Wednesday ahead of the downpour.
By late afternoon, more rain had spread back into the Coastal Plain and as far west as eastern Wake and Cumberland counties.
Slick roads were to blame for a couple of fatal accidents along the coast on Thursday.
In Washington County, a single-car accident killed four people - two adults and two of their three young children - along Highway 64.
The driver, 25-year-old Daniel Alvarez, his wife 26-year-old Natalie Owens, 3-year-old Zacharia Alvarez and 1-year-old Ariela Alvarez died when their Jeep Grand Cherokee struck standing water on the road causing the vehicle to hydroplane and overturn.
Officials say the Jeep ran off the right hand side of the road and into a ditch filled with water. Zacharia's twin, Ezekiel, was taken to a hospital in Greenville.
In Pamlico County, 50-year-old Dwight Harper likely drowned when his pickup truck veered off N.C. 304 and into the Bay River that was raging because of heavy rains. Authorities say he was trapped inside and rescue divers needed ropes to avoid being swept away by the swift water.
Around the Triangle, officials have kept an eye on flood prone areas. At Crabtree Creek in Raleigh Thursday morning, water levels slowly rose, but later in the day began to recede as rainfall slowed.
In Johnston County, the Neuse River overflowed its banks near the amphitheater in downtown Smithfield and blocked part of the riverwalk. The high water also caused a partial closure of Old NC-22 near Kenly through at least Friday morning.
Authorities have advised drivers to be careful. Saturated ground and wind gusts, fallen trees and power lines have posed a problem in some areas.
In Cary, a large tree fell along Ashe Avenue near SE Maynard Road pulling down power lines and shutting down the street for hours while workers fixed the problem.
In Durham, a tree came crashing down on a house on Lafayette Street. No one was hurt, but the house had to be condemned. And in Garner, a homeowner said a tree came toppling down on his home and his classic car.
Earlier in the day, a tree blocked a poorly lit Knightdale road, which also was slick from the rain. A nearby homeowner removed the obstacle before it caused a wreck.
Just south of the Triangle in Fayetteville, Cross Creek, which runs through downtown, looked as if it would jump its banks again Thursday morning, but it didn't flood. Wednesday night's storm fizzled out before causing any serious problems.
Emergency officials say Fayetteville got a little over 2 inches of rain from the storm.
"The rivers are high," Emergency Management Coordinator Greg Phillips said. "They are going to flood. We've got flooding, the rain, the run-off from parking lots and things. May be a concern later on, but right now we're not having an issue with it."
In Moore County, several roads were reportedly closed by flooding and there was standing water in low lying areas.
Coast sees the worst of the rain and flooding
Back-to-back storms dropped a third of the rain Wilmington usually gets all year in just five days. The 21 inches collected since Sunday was the highest five-day total in nearly 140 years of records, topping Hurricane Floyd's mark of 19 inches set in 1999, the National Weather Service said Thursday.
Flooding is forcing two area school systems to open late Friday morning. Both Sampson and Wayne counties schools are on a two hour delay.
Emergency planners down east and along the coast have opened shelters due to all the rain.
FEMA says residents in regions that could be affected by flooding should visit www.Ready.gov to learn simple tips on how to get ready for severe rains, flooding and possible flash flooding.
Officials urge residents who live in flood prone areas to take the following precautions:
- Make evacuation plans ahead of time. Include an evacuation route and final destination.
- Check your surroundings every few hours, even during the night. If water is rising to unsafe levels, evacuate to a higher place.
- If you have a car, fill the gas tank in case you have to evacuate.
- Avoid walking, swimming or driving in floodwaters.
- Do not touch an electric appliance if you are wet or standing in water.
People who live in areas where flooding routinely occurs are also encouraged to either update or prepare an emergency kit.
For weather emergencies, an emergency kit should include:
- Three-day supply of food that does not need to be refrigerated
- Three-day supply of water - one gallon of water per person, per day
- Battery-powered radio or TV and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit with pain reliever, antibiotic cream, band-aids and prescriptions
- Hand sanitizer or wipes and other hygiene items
- Matches in a waterproof container or waterproof lighter
- Extra clothing
- Other special items that your family or pets might need
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