Storm system cuts power across area

slyttle@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 31, 2013 

Heavy rain triggered by the same storm system responsible for tornadoes across the Southeast sent streams and rivers out of their banks late Wednesday across several North Carolina mountain counties.

Some of the worst conditions were in Boone, N.C., where residents of at least one apartment complex were displaced and the Appalachian State University library reportedly was flooded.

The storms knocked down trees and power lines across the mountains and in Upstate South Carolina, and Duke Energy reported nearly 19,000 outages shortly after 9 p.m.

The largest number of outages was in Mecklenburg County. Other hard-hit counties are Anderson and Spartanburg in South Carolina and Jackson and Swain in the North Carolina mountains.

The storm brought heavy rain to the Rock Hill area around 8 p.m., downing trees and power lines across York, Chester and Lancaster counties.

In Charlotte, strong thunderstorms knocked out power at intersections across the city. By 9 p.m., some 8,800 homes and businesses were without electricity in Mecklenburg County.

In Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood, a TV news reporter was hospitalized after she was struck by a car while reporting on the outages at the darkened intersection of Morehead Street and Kenilworth Avenue.

Elsewhere in the city, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police directed traffic where lights had gone out or were flashing at intersections near Northlake Mall, at Albemarle Road and Interstate 485 ramp, near SouthPark Mall at Morrison Boulevard and Sharon Road and at East Arrowood Road and South Boulevard.

In the N.C. mountains, flooding was severe enough for Appalachian State University officials to cancel evening classes and warn students to move their vehicles from parking lots in danger of flooding. Shortly before 8 p.m., university officials sent a Facebook message to students, telling them that the student union would remain open if they were unable to reach their homes.

While it rained for more than six hours, the heaviest precipitation fell between 4 and 6:30 p.m. The Boone airport reported more than 5 inches of rain in a two-hour period and 2 1/2 inches in a 45-minute span from 4:30 to 5:15 P.M.

The Boone Fire Department reported mudslides on several roads. Shortly after 5:30 p.m., social media reported at least one person was being rescued from high water on Shulls Mill Road, in the Foscoe community.

“Multiple water rescues are under way,” Boone police said in a statement issued about 7:15 p.m.

The Boone Mall parking lot, which frequently floods in heavy rain situations, had about 3 feet of water at 6 p.m., according to several reports.

Streams also were out of their banks in Ashe County, and flash flooding was reported in Valle Crucis.

In Avery County, authorities reported flooding on N.C. 181 and on Mullen Hill Road, off N.C. 19. The Linville River was rising rapidly early Wednesday evening, threatening to cover a roadway bridge.

The western edge of the foothills counties – western Caldwell, northwest Burke and northern Rutherford – also were included in the flash flood warning. Meteorologists reported nearly 3 inches of rain had fallen between 1 and 5 p.m. on the east side of the Blue Ridge.

In Buncombe County, law enforcement officials reported high water had closed U.S. 70 near Black Mountain. Widespread flooding also was reported in Henderson County, near Hendersonville.

The storms were expected to sweep east of the Charlotte area late Wednesday, followed by clearing overnight. Temperatures were expected to tumble, dropping into the upper 30s by Thursday morning.

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