Caldwell gets flooding but escapes the worst

Storm blamed for one death in western N.C.
May. 07, 2013 @ 07:43 AM

Heavy rains swelled rivers and wreaked havoc in spots across Caldwell County Sunday night and Monday.

But the weather caused less trouble in Caldwell than it did elsewhere in western North Carolina. A Norfolk Southern worker was killed in a mudslide as he checked tracks near Black Mountain early Monday, a rockslide temporarily closed the westbound lanes of Interstate 40 at the McDowell-Buncombe county line, and trees downed by strong winds termporarily interrupted electricity for thousands of people.

Today's forecast calls for scattered showers and thunderstorms.

At least seven Caldwell roads crossing streams or rivers were barricaded and closed to traffic Monday. In Collettsville, the area where rain was heaviest, a portion of N.C. 90 just north of Abington Road will be closed until Wednesday afternoon due to a landslide that washed out the earth underneath one lane.

“The creek waters got up to the bank underneath the road,” said Kenny Heavner, the N.C. Department of Transportation's county maintenance engineer. “The asphalt is still bridged over, but there is no support.”

Workers spent Monday hauling rocks from two area quarries to shore up the washed-out portion.

Also closed on Monday were portions of Playmore Beach Road, Indian Grave Road, Riverside Drive, Old Johns River Road, Wilson Creek Road and Valley View Circle. Whether they will need repairs was unclear Monday afternoon.

“We will assess the damages once the water recedes,” Heavner said. “We have been cutting trees and setting barricades all night.”

From late Saturday to Monday morning, when the heaviest widespread rains had passed, the western half of Caldwell County received 3 to 5 inches of rain, while the eastern portion got about 1 to 3 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Greer, S.C.

A downed tree was reported along Adaco Road, causing a minor accident about 5 a.m. Monday, according to Alan Walsh, assistant chief of Collettsville Fire and Rescue.

No power disruptions were reported in Caldwell from downed trees, but utility companies said more than 3,500 customers were without electricity in the region early Monday.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings and flood watches across much of the western and north central parts of the state, including a watch in Caldwell County that extended through all of Monday.

In Black Mountain, two Norfolk Southern workers were inspecting rails after a mudslide around 2 a.m. Monday when a second mudslide came and knocked their special truck with rail wheels off the track, spokesman Robin Chapman said. One worker was outside the truck, and he was buried and killed by the mudslide. The employee who was still in the truck called for help and was rescued. Chapman said the dead worker's body was recovered about five hours later. The names of the employees had not been released.

Flooding prompted schools to close in Avery County. Schools were opening two hours later than usual in Watauga County.

Emergency crews in Burke County rescued at least two people from a campground early Monday. No injuries were reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.