Storm-weary NC drenched

Ivan's heavy downpours are causing serious problems in western North Carolina. Western North Carolina suffered major flooding after the remnants of Hurricane Frances rolled through last week.

BY HEATHER MOYER | ASHEVILLE, N.C. | September 17, 2004



"So many parts of the county are already devastated, now this is making situations much, much worse."

—Mavis Lavender


Ivan's heavy downpours are causing serious problems in western North Carolina.

Western North Carolina suffered major flooding after the remnants of Hurricane Frances rolled through last week. "We got 17 inches of rain from Frances," said Buncombe County Public Information Officer Rhett Langston. "We're expecting a total of 10 to 11 inches this time around."

Across Buncombe County, home to Asheville, flooding has killed two people and closed over 150 roads. The Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers are expected to crest Friday afternoon at several feet over flood stage. High winds also wreaked havoc in the region, knocking out power to thousands of residents.

The saturated ground and high winds are causing much more tree damage this time as well, said Langston, adding that they've seen wind gusts reach 60 miles per hour. Yet Langston said this one could have been even worse. "We had been worried that Ivan would stall over us, but fortunately it's broken up a little and moved on more quickly."

West of Asheville, Haywood County emergency officials are reporting that communities hardest hit by flooding include Bethel, Canton, Center Pigeon, Cruso, Clyde, Lake Logan, Hazelwood, Dellwood, and Maggie Valley. The county emergency management department says some locations are seeing worse flooding this time than during Frances.

Residents of Waynesville were evacuated as creeks and rivers rose, and officials say they've done many water rescues of people driving through standing water. Officials are also reporting numerous bridges out across Haywood County.

Another area already hammered by Frances, McDowell County officials are saying all this new rain is not welcome. "So many parts of the county are already devastated, now this is making situations much, much worse," said Mavis Lavender of the McDowell County office of emergency management. Not only are officials telling residents to stay away from multiple county roads prone or already covered by mudslides, but also residents are seeing even more water damage to their homes. Three shelters are open in the county.

Lavender said she's happy to see people working together so well, though. "People here are determined, they say 'we got through the last one, we'll get through this,'" she explained. "They're really banding together."

Officials in Watauga County are seeing some positive aspects as well, agreeing that they fared better than they thought they would. "We still have a lot of cleanup to do around here, but it could've been a lot worse," said Lisa Danner, spokesperson for the county emergency management office.

Danner said hard-hit areas of the county are Zionville and Cruces. Close to ten thousand people are still without power, but Danner said that number is steadily decreasing as crews work non-stop to restore electricity. She added that so far, the count of homes with water damage is around 15, but that number could increase as assessments continue. Two local churches are serving as shelters for over 60 residents.

And for the region, the repeat floods are taking their toll not just physically, but emotionally. "This is really taxing on emergency services and on people," Danner said. "It's really starting to wear."


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