Cabarrus County floods force ‘state of emergency’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Joanie Morris
KANNAPOLIS ó By 1 p.m. Wednesday, 17 people had checked into the Red Cross disaster shelter at the Kannapolis Branch YMCA.
And Nancy Litton, executive director of the American Red Cross in Cabarrus County, wasn’t giving them a firm check-out time.
“We are arranging staffing for all day ó into the night ó anticipating afternoon rains and people leaving work (and) school who cannot reach their homes,” Litton said in an e-mail.
Wednesday afternoon, Cabarrus County officials declared a “state of emergency.”
In a press release, Jay White, chairman of the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners, said the state of emergency paves the way for property owners to receive federal funding for flood damage. About 60 structures were damaged by the storm.
Gov. Mike Easley announced plans to visit Concord this afternoon and hold a press conference at Concord Regional Airport.
Medardo Guzman, a resident of Jerman Drive in Concord, close to the Kannapolis city limits, was one of the people evacuated Wednesday morning and staying at the YMCA shelter.
“We called 911 because of the big thunderstorms this morning,” Guzman said.
Firefighters in boats rescued Guzman, his wife, their two children and his brother-in-law from their trailer when water rose rapidly around the structure. “All around the trailer was a big flood,” he said.
Guzman recorded the flood on his camera phone and played the video for a Post reporter. In the video, the 3-foot-deep water swirled around the trailer but hadn’t gotten inside when the family departed. Guzman’s car wasn’t as lucky, with water reaching the middle of the door.
“They brought boats and got everybody,” said Guzman. His mobile home sits 200 to 300 yards from the road, he added. “My daughter was very scared.”
Guzman doesn’t know when his family will be allowed back home. “They said not for now. … It’s not safe to go back. We left everything down there.”
Kannapolis emergency personnel stayed busy throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday morning as torrential rains dropped 7 inches of water on the area.
Fifty-one residents of Kannapolis Village Long Term Care facility were evacuated after flood waters reached 3 feet and higher inside the home.
Only the owner, staff and fire personnel were allowed in the home Wednesday afternoon, but through open doorways and windows, onlookers could see mud and debris lining the walls, in addition to white shoe prints in thick brown mud on the floor. Duke Energy had to cut electricity to the facility because water had gotten into all the outlets.
Twelve occupants of Wagstaff Town & Country mobile home park were evacuated as well to a temporary shelter at Fred L. Wilson Elementary School before being moved to the Kannapolis YMCA. At Wagstaff, many homes showed signs of water damage. Water had ripped away the aluminum underpinning on most, and standing water could be seen underneath the homes well into the afternoon.
Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Easley’s office said he had directed damage assessment teams to flooded areas.
In a press release, the governor’s office cited “significant flooding … in some parts of the mountains and western Piedmont” and noted that state teams will assess damage in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties.
Several roads were closed throughout Kannapolis due to flooding and debris. Those roads included Sloop Road, Trinity Church Road at Laugenour, Dogwood Boulevard off of Kannapolis Parkway, Dakota Street, Orphanage Road at Northwest Cabarrus Park, Lane Street at Carolyn Street, Oakwood Avenue at Stonewyck, Moose Road at the Lake Fisher bridge, South Little Texas Road at Mitchell Glenn, Mallard Pointe Road, East First Street and St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Karen Whichard, city spokesperson, said trash collection was running on a normal schedule except on closed roads, and Safrit Park was also closed.
“It will be closed at least a week due to flooding,” Whichard said. “We are continuing to closely monitor bridges, lake levels and streams throughout the city.”
Kannapolis Police Sgt. Rick Towell said communication operators answered 48 calls between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Of those, 22 callers reported blocked roads and another 16 reported water in or close to structures.
Emergency officials set up two shelters in Cabarrus County ó at the Kannapolis Branch YMCA and at Harrisburg United Methodist Church.
Water, food, cots and blankets, as well as entertainment items for children, are available at the shelters. Litton expected the numbers to rise as people get off work and out of school.
Kannapolis Assistant City Manager Eddie Smith said several areas of the city will likely be closed for a while.
“We’ve got some fairly major damage on Dakota Street that’s going to require some pretty extensive repairs,” Smith said. Parts of Dakota Street were washed away by flooding and will remain closed for the near future. “Our Emergency Operations Center was activated for about six hours as well.”
Smith said the residents of Kannapolis Village and Wagstaff Town & Country were evacuated with the assistance of Rowan County, the American Red Cross and the Enochville Volunteer Fire Department.
Wilmer Melton, director of Public Works for the city, said it may take the city a few days to clean up all the damage.
“There’s a good bit of wash on a lot of the streets that’s going to require a good bit of cleanup,” said Melton.
Cabarrus County Schools were closed Wednesday and Kannapolis City Schools operated on a two-hour delay.
Ellen Boyd, public information officer for Kannapolis City Schools, said officials at individual schools didn’t report any damage, and transportation officials did not report problems with bus routes.
In other parts of Cabarrus :
– Three neighborhoods in Harrisburg were evacuated ó College Downs, Middleton and Harrisburg Estates.
– Waters are expected to continue to rise along the Rocky River. River levels in the southern part of Cabarrus County were expected to crest sometime Wednesday evening, while river levels in the northern part of the county crested in the afternoon.
– Officials reported 14 “swift-water rescues” of stranded motorists but no injuries.
– Two building collapses were being investigated at a commercial property on Main Street in Concord and a home on Dayvault Avenue that moved off its foundation.