WINDSOR, N.C. (WNCT) – Governor Pat McCrory has declared a State of Emergency for eleven counties in northeastern North Carolina because of flooding from remnants of Tropical Storm Julia.
The counties covered by the declaration are Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton, Pasquotank and Perquimans.
“While recent tropical storms have spared most of the state, the remnants of this storm have overwhelmed many communities in northeastern North Carolina,” said Governor McCrory. “This part of the state has not seen flooding to this extent since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Our emergency management team is working with our local partners in the hardest hit areas and remains ready to assist North Carolina residents there.”
Governor McCrory addressed the flooding earlier in the day and you can view his comments here.
According to the National Weather Service, water levels along the Cashie River near Windsor have crested near 15 feet, that’s about 7 feet above flood stage. Water levels are expected to gradually fall below flood stage sometime late Friday.
Bertie County officials said Thursday that they don’t expect the Cashie River to crest until 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, widespread flooding continues to affect much of the area, shutting down roads and closing schools and businesses. Bertie County offices will be closed Friday as will Bertie County Schools for students and staff.
Emergency shelter operations are established at West Bertie Elementary in Lewiston-Woodville and Bertie High School in Windsor, and residents are encouraged to seek shelter if their homes are being impacted or likely to be impacted. Red Cross officials and staff of Bertie County Department of Social Services will be staffing the shelters.
The Bertie County Sheriff’s patrol, the Town of Windsor police and local volunteer fire departments will remain on call and available to assist residents. In addition, EMS ambulances will remain on duty throughout as normally scheduled.
The National Weather Service said anywhere from five to nine inches of rain has fallen across much of eastern North Carolina, while the Arrowhead Beach and Corapeake communities received more than 10 inches of rain. In Windsor, more than 12 inches of rain has fallen over the past three days.
The State of Emergency declared by McCrory helps to facilitate the movement of any resources that may be needed to respond to and recover from the storm. McCrory also issued an executive order that waives certain truck restrictions on weight and hours of service to facilitate quicker storm response.
Thursday morning, the state deployed five swift water rescue teams to help people stranded in floodwaters. At least 65 people have been rescued from homes and vehicles in Bertie County area. A Greenville-based medical evacuation bus is will assist with the evacuation of a nursing home housing 52 residents.
Chairman John Trent thanked all of the local emergency first responders from the County and the other jurisdictions who have offered support, “We are all working together with the Town of Windsor to protect their residents, businesses and property.”
On Friday, county officials will begin to assemble preliminary damage assessment teams and coordinate with the State’s Emergency Management staff in seeking emergency relief and recovery funding.
In reference to the law enforcement personnel from the Sheriff’s Office, the Town and the State Highway Patrol who are still responding to calls for assistance, Emergency Services Director Mitchell Cooper commented, “This is a team effort and we are very thankful for the firefighters, law enforcement and state officials for their continued support.”
Heavy rain has been pelting the east all week, including Bertie County, as well as other northeastern North Carolina counties. Over a foot or more rain has fallen since Monday, much of it since late Tuesday. It’s all a result of the remnants of the tropical system once known as Julia.
And with the rain continuing to come down, many people are concerned that the flooding could get even worse.
“If we have an emergency, getting the EMS or fire people to them on account of these closed roads, that’ll be the problem. The timing getting to where we need to go,” explained Milton Felton, Colerain Volunteer Fire Dept. chief.
Highway 17 is closed near old U.S. 17 just east of Windsor due to high water. Also, parts of routes 42 and 45 near Colerain are closed for the same reason.
Before the roads were shut down, there was at least one water rescue earlier Wednesday. “Two ladies, a man, and a 10-month-old baby that we were able to get to and get them out of the car safely. Everybody’s fine,” said Felton.
No homes have been affected, but deputies said they’ve had to “pick a few people up” after their cars became disabled due to the high water.
Chowan County has also seen just over ten inches of rain while over seven inches has fallen in Camden County and nearly five inches have fallen in Pasquotank County.
Drivers are reminded to avoid unnecessary travel, especially in areas prone to flooding, and to use extra care and take precautions when on the roads:
- Do not drive through flooded areas. If you see a flooded roadway ahead, turn around and take an alternate route to your destination. If there is no alternate route, head to higher ground and wait for the water to subside.
- Do not attempt to cross over a flooded road even if it seems shallow. Just one foot of water can float many vehicles, while two feet of rushing water can carry away vehicles including SUVs and pick-ups.
- Know what to do if your car begins to hydroplane. Hydroplaning occurs when your tires glide across the surface of the water on the road. If your car starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, but do not stomp on the brakes. Instead, apply the brakes in a steady, slightly firm manner, and steer in the direction of the skid. If you have a manual transmission, push in the clutch and let the car slow down on its own. If you have an automatic transmission, hold the steering wheel steady and lightly apply the brakes. For cars that have anti-lock brakes, you should apply more pressure to the brakes, but avoid pumping them.
- Allow more travel time, reduce your speed and drive defensively. Motorists should drive at least five to 10 miles per hour slower on wet pavement and allow at least twice the normal following distance between cars to provide ample room for stopping. Be ready for a sudden stop. And remember that the driver behind you is dealing with the same conditions so signal for turns ahead of time and brake early as you near a stop. Be patient and do not pass lines of traffic.