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Sheriff's deputies crack down on roadblock violators

A roadblock warned motorists of high water on Airport Road at BRCC. A roadblock warned motorists of high water on Airport Road at BRCC.

Not only is driving around a flood barrier a bad idea and risky, it will also cost you a ticket and a fine.

Henderson County sheriff's deputies, in a "zero tolerance" crackdown, issued tickets to barricade violators as area roads flooded on Thursday, Maj. Frank Stout said. High water and downed trees closed numerous roads across the county as 4-5 inches of rain fell over the past 24 hours.

“We have still got some roads that are closed," Stout said shortly before 3 p.m.. “We’ve issued 12 citations for people driving through flooded and closed areas and we’ll continue to take zero tolerance when it comes to people putting emergency services in harm's way. We’re just trying to be very aggressive in making sure that we’re not putting our first responders at risk. One of the deputies actually had somebody in front of him run over the ‘road closed’ sign. They got a citation for not using good judgment."

Driving into high water endangers the motorist, passengers and first responders who must rescue people often in hazardous conditions.
“If you get in the water and your vehicle begins to float and or you float off into rushing water and you’ve got a small child in a car seat, you’re not going to be able to get them out," Stout said.

Dispatchers received 27 calls about trees blocking roads, said Jimmy Brissie, the county’s emergency management director.  

“I think from what I heard the south side of Hendersonville is back in good shape,” Brissie said, though that could change quickly because a chance of severe thunderstorms was forecast. “Any heavy rain could result in flash flooding.”

The National Weather Service reported 4.34 inches of rain over the last 24 hours at one Henderson County gauge but that would not have accounted for heavy rain overnight Tuesday in many parts of the county. Mud Creek flooding closed Jackson Park and New Hope Creek flooding closed New Hope Road near the Hendersonville Airport. This storm was not expected to create the level of high water that the Good Friday flood caused, Brissie said. The NWS said the French Broad River would crest Friday in the Blantyre and Etowah communities.

“From what they forecast it’ll be a minimal impact in Etowah,” Brissie said. “It won’t be as bad as what he had several months ago.”

He applauded the sheriff’s office crackdown on roadblock evaders.

“That’s clearly the best thing the people can do, is heed those warnings,” he said. “If they see a road closed sign, turn around, don’t drown.” Even if the road is not yet barricaded, “don’t take that chance because you don’t know what happens (underwater). The road may be washed away.”

The bad weather notwithstanding, some kids might venture out for trick or treating tonight. “Folks should use extreme caution” if they’re driving where kids are walking in costumes, Brissie said.

High winds were expected to pick up around sundown, creating more hazardous conditions and possible power outages. Duke Energy said 953 customers in Henderson County were without power at mid-afternoon; there were 2,132 outages in Buncombe County, 80 in Polk County and 419 in Transylvania County. The region remains under a flood watch until 8 p.m. Thursday.

The forecast called for showers continuing until around 9 p.m. and temperatures dropping to freezing for the first time this season. The sun comes out Friday, with a high of 54. It will be cold in the stands for Friday night football, with lows near freezing overnight. The high Saturday was expected to reach 56 under sunny skies.