County buildings escape damage; two Sheriff’s Office cruisers flooded

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette and Shavonne Potts
The remnants of Fay claimed two Rowan County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars early Wednesday.
The cruisers had to be towed out of rising water in different locations ó East Innes Street near I-85 and North Long Street.
County buildings apparently escaped with only “standard leaks,” an official said.
County maintenance staff started battling leaks around 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Ken Deal, county director of administration, said the leaks for the most part appeared in locations where problems have occurred previously. The basement part of the old courthouse had so much water coming in at one point that two sump pumps couldn’t catch up.
But Deal said the leakage in the courthouse wasn’t as bad as in the past.
Deal said minor leaking occurred in the Sheriff’s Office area of the Justice Center. Caulking between the large exterior stone panels failed in some areas.
The county has already contacted a contractor to replace caulking in the building, which was built in the early 1990s.
The Cooperative Extension Service building on Old Concord Road also had some minor leaks, as did the Rowan Sheriff’s branch office in Landis.
Deal said the patrol cars sustained the only significant damage to county property.
A large area of Sloan Park was covered in floodwater from Sloan Creek early Wednesday.
Parks Director Don Bringle said waters from the swollen creek covered the playground and amphitheater.
Sloan Park Manager Rocky Cain said he’s never seen that much flooding at the park. The water covered the amphitheater stage briefly.
It didn’t reach Sloan Mill, which is on a higher side of the creek.
Rowan County Sheriff George Wilhelm said one patrol car got stuck in the water as a deputy tried to rescue a stranded motorist and the other as a deputy was returning to work.
Deputy Jerry Croyle was traveling on East Innes Street near Sam’s Car Wash when he “ran into some deep water,” Wilhelm said.
The deputy was returning to the office to turn in paperwork.
“It was too late for him to do anything else. Water just completely filled the car up,” Wilhelm said.
The water was about 3 feet deep at that time ó around 5 a.m.
“He tried to back out, but the engine shut down on him,” Wilhelm said.
Croyle, who was driving one of the department’s new Dodge Chargers, was able to get out uninjured.
The sheriff estimated the loss of the Charger and equipment inside at about $24,000.
About the same time, Deputy Josh McHone, was responding to a call about a taxi cab stranded in water on North Long Street in East Spencer.
“He saw the vehicle. He was approaching it and hydroplaned before he could get stopped,” Wilhelm said.
McHone was able to get out of the patrol car, and he assisted the taxi driver and passenger to safety.
The water along North Long Street was also an estimated 3 feet deep, Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm is still checking on the damage to the Ford cruiser McHone was driving, but he estimated damage to the vehicle, with equipment, to be $15,000 to $18,000.
“We’re not sure all what is wrong in the Ford. It’s older but fairly new,” he said.
Law enforcement and county officials made several rescues throughout the day of people stranded in cars and in homes.
Many also directed traffic, including Sheriff Wilhelm.
Wilhelm said he spent about two hours at Heilig and Faith roads directing people to safer routes.
He also stopped numerous cars from driving through deep waters, he said.
When he left for work Wednesday morning, Granite Quarry firefighters already were directing traffic along Faith Road, where he estimated water covered the road close to 100 feet.
“It was like a river,” he said. “I’ve traveled that road all my life, and that was probably the most water I’ve seen out there.”
He can recall possibly one or two other times when the water rose to high levels, but never this high.
Wilhelm said deputies will respond today as needed.
Members of the Sheriff’s Office swift water rescue team assisted the Rowan County Rescue Squad in getting people out of their homes and vehicles.
The swift water team also accompanied the rescue squad to Cabarrus County, where they rescued more people.
“They just completed training on this type of rescue a couple of weeks ago,” he said.