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Editorial: A fast flood of problems

The entire state has been hurting for rain this summer. So in classic “be careful what you wish for” style, the rain came down on Wednesday. And the floods came up.
No matter how much advanced equipment forecasters employ, Mother Nature can still pull a fast one.
The water was deep enough on West Innes Street to cut off access to Interstate 85 and nearly swallow a truck. The Rowan County Rescue Squad had to evacuate one family out of a Faith Road home by boat. And in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties, the flooding caused bigger problems, prompting a state of emergency. Schools were closed or started late; low-lying nursing homes, subdivisions and apartment buildings were evacuated. Authorities had to close dozens of roads.
This all came as a surprise to a region struggling with extreme drought. Forecasters had predicted Tropical Storm Fay would bring 1 or 2 inches of rain. No one foresaw the downpour that dumped 5 to 8 inches on Rowan. That was disappointment No. 1.
Disappointment No. 2 was the apparent drainage failure at the newly rebuilt I-85 interchange on East Innes. The state spent millions of dollars on the project, but this week’s rain was more than it could handle. Still, transportation engineers were unapologetic. The interchange was built to handle a 50-year storm, and this week’s rain was greater than that. Between the extraordinary rainfall and runoff from all the parking lots in the area ó many of them new ó 66-inch-wide pipes and a 96-inch-wide tunnel were not enough to handle the drainage.
Disappointment No. 3 ó or a bone of contention with parents, at least ó was the potential danger to school buses and their precious cargo. Rowan-Salisbury buses started their rounds before school officials learned some roads were impassable Wednesday morning. But bus drivers proceeded with caution and adjusted to the situation. Some buses arrived at school late, but they avoided accidents and injuries.
With more rain in the forecast and another tropical storm taking shape over the Atlantic, this is a good time to review the basics for drivers.
– Do not drive through flooded areas.
– If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and find another route or go to higher ground and wait for the waters to subside.
– Remember, water that looks shallow may be hiding dips in the road or washouts.
– Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control or possible stalling. If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.
– One foot of water will float many vehicles, and two feet of rushing water can sweep away most vehicles ó including SUVs and pickups.

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