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Strong storm knocks out power, washes out roads

Firefighters, sheriff's deputies, swift-water rescue teams and other first responders scrambled to dozens of calls of downed trees, downed power lines and people stranded in their homes or in vehicles as a powerful storm swept through the area Monday afternoon.

 

“Today there has been dozens of calls for trees down and power lines down that fire departments have answered,” Henderson County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Brissie said. “There’s some flash flooding that occurred in town and in the south and east that resulted in people being rescued from structures or vehicles that were stranded in the high water. There has been what I call some debris flows in some of the steeper slope areas, in Bat Cave and Hickory Nut Gorge area. ... It created more problems than the past two hurricanes that came through.”

The three-hour battering of high wind and heavy rain left no one injured but plenty of people terrified.

"Some people that were rescued were cold and wet but no one was taken to the hospital to my knowledge,” Brissie said. First responders "have had an exceptionally busy afternoon. Our telecommunicators at 911 were fielding dozens of calls and dispatching our fire departments as needed."

By 6 Monday evening, the storm had given way to blue skies but water was still rising along most creeks and rivers and 7,300 Duke Energy customers were without power. An Edneyville resident reported that the road leading to Chimney Rock Estates had collapsed.

"There are some private roadways with some culverts that washed away," Brissie said. "They’re not state maintained roads. In a situation like that, it’s a private road. It would be up to the property owners. If there’s an emergency the fire department would do everything in their ability to gain access. A lot of times there’s another way to get in, it just might not be by road."

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the French Broad River until 8:40 p.m. Wednesday and predicted that the river will exceed 19.0 feet overnight Monday — considered moderate flood state — and crest near 20.1 feet Tuesday afternoon. The river could flood railroad tracks. Floodwaters were approaching buildings north of Grove Bridge Road along U.S. 64 in Etowah, the weather service said. Flooding was likely on River Road, Pleasant Grove Road, Butler Bridge Road and Big Willow Road.

The National Weather Service reported that at 12:39 p.m. Monday Doppler radar and automated rain gauges showed periods of widespread heavy rain have fallen over the area over the previous 6-8 hours. The rainfall may cause minor flooding in the advisory area and the French Broad River was expected to flood. Around 1-3 inches of rain had fallen since 7 a.m. and an additional 1-2 inches of rain was expected until about sunset as a line of heavy showers and thunderstorms pushes from west to east across the area, forecasters said. The flood watch applied to Bat Cave, Gerton, Edneyville and other areas. Creeks, streams and tributaries expected to swell over their banks included the Cane Creek headwaters, Rocky Broad River and upper Clear Creek.

Things improve markedly as the rain moves out. Tuesday should bring mostly sunny skies, with a high near 61.