Record rainfall leads to flooding, downed trees across viewing a - WNEM TV 5

Water levels begin to recede as area tries to dry out from storms

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  • Safety tips for flood conditions

    Safety tips for flood conditions

    Tuesday, May 7 2013 2:16 PM EDT2013-05-07 18:16:28 GMT
    Here are some suggested safety measures for high water conditions: People who live along lakes and rivers and in other low-lying areas or areas prone to flooding should pay close attention to local mediaMore >
    Here are some suggested safety measures for high water conditions: People who live along lakes and rivers and in other low-lying areas or areas prone to flooding should pay close attention to local mediaMore >
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Water levels are slowly beginning to recede along the Catawba River basin as the area tries to dry out from several days of record rainfall.

Emergency officials across the area are closely monitoring water levels along the Catawba River and the lakes that make it up.

The National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg has issued a Flood Advisory until 8 p.m. Tuesday for all areas along the Catawba River Basin in North and South Carolina from Mecklenburg County in North Carolina to Chester County in South Carolina. Areas of Lincoln, Gaston and York counties are also included.

Some areas in the upper Catawba region have received 11 inches of rain or more in the last three days, requiring Duke Energy's hydro operations team to move significant water volumes through the Catawba River's 225 miles and chain of 11 reservoirs and 13 hydroelectric stations.

The maximum lake level for lakes controlled by Duke Energy is 100 feet. The company considers the lake full at that stage.

Lake Norman is at 99.8 feet Wednesday morning and the company expects that level to stay around 100 feet.

Mountain Island Lake is expected to stay below 102.5 feet.

The weather service considers this a serious situation.

Officials held a town hall meeting Tuesday night at Cook's Memorial Church to share the latest information with residents about the flooding.

Residents were able to directly ask officials with CMPD, the Charlotte Fire Dept. and Duke Energy about the issues with flooding.

That is why Paul Angeles, who lives in the Riverside community along Mountain Island Lake, told WBTV he showed up.

"I just really wanted to know if it's going to get worse," he said. "I wanted to know if my home was going to flood anymore and they addressed my concerns so I do feel better."

But Angeles' home still saw a fair amount of damage. His entire basement is flooded.

"I no longer have a backyard," he said. "There's at least 4 feet of water in the basement."

A Duke Energy spokeswoman told WBTV that the power company had been preparing for the extra water for the past week by lower lake levels in the lakes controlled by the company.

"Unfortunately, when we get 11 inches of rain there is only so much we can do," said company spokeswoman Paige Sheehan.

Sheehan said she expects the water levels to return to normal over the next 48 hours or so.

Flooding of the Catawba River in the Riverside neighborhood has prompted the American Red Cross to open a shelter for residents whose homes and property have been affected. The shelter is located at Cook's Memorial Presbyterian Church, 3413 Mount Holly-Huntersville Road.

 Remember to bring any medications and mobility aids to the shelter. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control is providing accommodations for pets of residents who have evacuated their homes due to the flooding. Residents are encouraged to stay with friends and family and use the Red Cross shelter as a secondary option.

So far, 92 homes have been directly impacted by the flood waters. The public is asked to stay off the Catawba River due to multiple hazards including household items, debris, fluids from flooded vehicles, and swift water current. Duke Energy, Charlotte Fire Department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management continue to monitor lake and river levels and are instituting flood control measures.

"We received about three months of rain in three days in the upper Catawba River Basin," said Randy Herrin, general manager of the hydro fleet.

"As the upper Catawba begins to stabilize, our focus is on public safety and balancing the upper basin with the lower to minimize impacts to lakeside residents as much as possible. Duke Energy works closely with emergency management officials during high water and flooding conditions to provide information to help ensure they can make appropriate public action decisions."

Emergency officials aren't wasting any time. Evacuations are already taking place along the shores of Mountain Island Lake. The Charlotte Fire Department has set up a command center on Harwood Lane at the southern end of the lake.

Lake Wylie is expected to come out of its banks later today with Lake Wateree becoming full by Wednesday morning.

Both Duke Energy and the NWS encourage residents living along the shores of the bodies of water to closely monitor the rising water levels and have a plan in place to evacuate at any time.

"High water can create hazardous conditions, and we encourage residents to be alert and adhere to the advice of local emergency management officials," Herrin said. "We appreciate our customers' patience and cooperation while we manage these high flows."

Anyone with questions about what actions to take during such events should contact a local county emergency management office. 

WBTV's Al Conklin says thunderstorms are possible Tuesday afternoon which could cause more localized flooding as the ground is already saturated from weekend rains.

The Lake Norman Marine Commission has already issued a notice to boaters to use extreme caution if they go out on the lake over the course of the next few days as strong wakes can damage structures such as piers and landings along the already full lake shore.

By 10 a.m. Monday morning, more than two inches of rain had already fallen at Charlotte Douglas International Airport since Sunday morning.  Monday's rainfall broke the old record set back in 2003.

Mecklenburg County is not included in this watch, but minor street flooding could occur with heavy downpours.

Recent rainfall has left the ground relatively moist, and with another 2-3 inches expected across much of the region, significant runoff is possible. Some streams and creeks may rise over their banks, and landslides and slope failures are possible in the mountains.

A landslide in Caldwell County closed Highway 90 just above Collettsville Elementary School. NCDOT expects the highway to remain closed for most of the day.

Wilson's Creek and John's River were both coming out of their banks by Monday morning, according to Caldwell County Emergency Management.

It's the same story in Watauga County, where rising waters have closed the Boone Mall entrance on U.S. 321.

In Burke County, a driver had to be rescued from their vehicle at Spainhour and Bost Roads due to a flooded roadway. The roadway is now blocked off to traffic.

Duke Energy says its crews are monitoring water levels along the Catawba-Wateree basin and ask that lakeside residents use caution when driving in flood-prone areas.

Some Catawba reservoirs are above full pond and spilling, including Lake James, Lake Rhodhiss, Lake Hickory and Lookout Shoals. Problems with the controls that operate Oxford Dam spillway gates on Lake Hickory delayed the company's ability to raise those gates, according to a news release from Duke Energy.

Ramona Fulbright, has a home on Lookout Shoas lake. She said they tried to get out what they could.

"It's very frustrating when you are trying to get things out and the water's coming in under the door just as fast as you can get things out cause we didn't have much warning," she said."We got out some furniture and I guess the rest of it is floating."

This caused water to spill over the auxiliary spillway, which is designed to pass high flows. There are no concerns for dam safety; the problem has been resolved, and water levels are receding.

Officials in Hickory say four sanitary sewer overflowed during the heavy rainfall but that water remains safe.

Overflows were discharged into Falling Creek and the Catawba River.

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