Weather hits keep coming

Jul. 19, 2013 @ 08:07 AM

Collettsville just can't seem to get a break.

For the past three weeks, folks in the small, tight-knit community northwest of Lenoir have dealt with flooding, high winds, heavy rains and even hail. Work crews continue to pour into the area. A convoy of utility trucks could be seen Thursday heading up Abington Road toward N.C. 90, where crews continue to clear debris and damage caused primarily by last Friday's storm.

But it doesn't even have to rain for trees to fall. Under sunny skies Thursday morning, a large oak tree fell across N.C. 90, knocking down a power pole and knocking out power to much of the town, including Collettsvile Fire and Rescue and the medical center.

"The ground was so saturated, it just came up, roots and all," Collettsville Fire and Rescue Capt. Larry Price said.

With the ground already saturated with water, and the Johns River near capacity, officials are concerned about forecasts showing the possibility of more storms through Monday.

"We're monitoring the water conditions and the weather reports," Price said. "Our biggest threat right now is going to be heavy rains and high winds."

Price said all it will take is for a thunderstorm to drop another 1 to 1 1/2 inches of rain to cause more flooding.

In the first five days of July, a total of 6.4 inches of rain had fallen in Caldwell County, more than the 5.9 inches of rain that fell during the entire month in 2012. By Thursday morning, 12.08 inches had fallen, but Collettsville likely has had more than that -- Friday's storm brought 60-mph winds, dime-sized hail and 5 inches of rain in just an hour. Caldwell County officials declared it a disaster area. Volunteers and staff with Samaritan's Purse arrived Wednesday to assist victims from the storm.

But why is Collettsville getting so much of Mother Nature's wrath lately? Pat Tanner, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Greenville, S.C., said geography plays a small role, but the bigger culprit is shifting weather patterns.

"There could be some effect with the upslope of the mountains," Tanner said. "Mostly, though, it was just un-luck of the draw. For the last few weeks, there has been a change in the jet stream pattern; it's dipping moreso into our area. Couple that with the Bermuda highs (pressure) off the coast, you will get more moisture from the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, triggering more thunderstorms.

"It's also been really super humid. Any little front that kicks in will trigger a thunderstorm."