Frances impact spans SC to NY

The remnants of Frances were still causing damage Thursday along the US east coast.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | September 9, 2004

"We've also hardly started damage assessments, but we know some homes have water in them and others will have structural damage."

—Lisa Danner

The remnants of Frances were still causing damage Thursday up and down the east coast.

In Ohio, up to 7 inches of rain fell, and two deaths were attributed to the storm.

And, in North Carolina, tens of thousands of people in Asheville, were without drinking water early Thursday after a major water line from a reservoir washed out.

On Wednesday, heavy downpours flooded several western North Carolina counties, inundating communities with as much as a foot of rain. In McDowell County, mudslides and high water chased people from their homes. "It's just unreal," said Mavis Lavender of the McDowell County Office of Emergency Management. "Many people are having to be rescued from their homes because the high water has trapped them."

Lavender added that 60 homes near the Lake Tahoma Dam were evacuated after water started coming over the dam. Several shelters have been set up around the county, with the hardest hit areas around the city of Old Fort. "We haven't even gotten to damage assessments yet," said Lavender.

A severe mudslide has reduced Interstate 40 in McDowell County to two lanes. Lavender said it would take days to remove that mess and get traffic flowing normally. She added that several other roads have caved in as well.

The heavy rain is just now letting up, according to Lavender. "It's still raining, but not as hard as yesterday," she explained. "You could hear that rain coming in waves, it was like nothing I've ever heard before."

Lavender's father had to be evacuated from waist-deep water in his home Wednesday morning. She said the evacuations are challenging for the elderly because many don't want to leave their homes.

In Watauga County, the water is now receding and leaving a trail of damage behind. The Watauga River crested Wednesday at 21 feet, one of the highest levels ever recorded, according to Watauga County Emergency Management Coordinator Lisa Danner.

"We've also hardly started damage assessments, but we know some homes have water in them and others will have structural damage."

Danner added that most of the water rescues the county has done have been for drivers trying to ford flooded roads. Avery County also suffered flood damages.

The remnants of Frances also spawned tornadoes up the coast. In Sumter County, S.C., twisters destroyed eight homes and damaged over 50 others. Three people were also injured. Several businesses were also leveled, with damages to county infrastructure already hitting over $1 million.

"The damage is isolated to three separate areas of the county, with the biggest area being in the southwest," said Vic Jones, emergency management coordinator for the county. "The National Weather Service will be in today to confirm, but we're all pretty sure those were tornadoes that did all the damage."

Jones said the county also experienced some localized flooding, but it was not serious.

Lancaster County, S.C. experienced the brunt of a twister as well. Several mobile homes were destroyed along with farm buildings in the Rich Hill community, according to county emergency manager Morris Russell. The area also saw some flooding due to the seven inches of rain received in two days.

Tornadoes rolled through southern and central North Carolina on Monday and Tuesday, with one severely damaging seven homes in Robeson County.

Another tornado rumbled through part of Charlotte, but damage was confined to a city park.

Wednesday afternoon saw numerous tornado warnings posted through North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland as Frances continues its slow creep northward. Significant rainfall across Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia is expected to compound recovery efforts in those states from spring and summer floods.

Disaster responders are already active throughout North and South Carolina. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has dispatched feeding, mud-out, and chainsaw units throughout both states after numerous assistance requests came in.

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