Tropical Storm Michael to bring heavy rain to the Carolinas
Tropical Storm Michael left one Iredell County man dead Thursday and thousands without power in the Charlotte area. Dozens of roads were also closed in the region due to flooding or downed trees.
A large oak tree toppled onto the driver’s car on Mocksville Highway (U.S. 64) east of Statesville, Kent Greene, director of Iredell County Fire Services and Emergency Management, said in a news release Thursday night.
The man was at least the sixth victim of the storm since Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday afternoon, and the first in North Carolina, The New York Times reported. Four people died in Florida and an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia, according to The Times.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, Michael was “producing life-threatening flash flooding across portions of North Carolina and Virginia,” the National Hurricane Center reported in a storm update. “Damaging tropical storm-force wind gusts (are) occurring over portions of Virginia and central and eastern North Carolina.”
Michael was 20 miles northwest of Raleigh at the time, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Storm-surge watches and warnings were in effect at the coast.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced Thursday night that the system will remain closed Friday for a second straight day, after closing Thursday. Thirty-two schools across the district remained without power as of 6:30 p.m., CMS said in a news release.
Emergency crews in the Charlotte area responded to numerous reports of trees falling onto power lines and roads Thursday afternoon.
At 5:30 p.m., about 50,600 Duke customers in Mecklenburg County were without power. Across Duke’s Carolinas service area, about 409,200 customers had no electricity, with most of those in North Carolina.
At 10:30 p.m., 39,500 Duke customers in Mecklenburg County still had no power and about 477,650 statewide.
Michael’s center barely missed Charlotte on Thursday as it moved from South Carolina toward Raleigh, bringing rising winds and heavy rains.
Winds began to pick up early in the afternoon in Charlotte. Just before 1 p.m., winds at Charlotte’s airport were blowing at 20 mph with gusts to 36 mph.
Queens University of Charlotte on Thursday afternoon canceled all remaining classes and closed for official business after losing electricity. The campus phone system also was out, “which is impacting Campus Police dispatch,” Queens said on its website. “Until the phone system is restored, for emergencies call 704-964-1670.”
Charlotte Area Transit System suspended its Lynx Blue Line light rail service in the afternoon after fallen trees damaged the overhead wires in two places. By 6 p.m., CATS had restored some service.
By 3 p.m., Medic tweeted that it had responded to 50 traffic and 57 tree-related calls, “significantly higher numbers than Florence.”
Duke Energy said about 400 line workers and support staff were expected in Charlotte to help with repairs. The crews came from New York, Missouri, Texas and Canada.
Iredell County declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon due to “heavy rainfall, flooded roadways, and downed trees and power lines.”
The county received “just over 1,000 calls for service” during the storm, Greene said in the 6 p.m. news release. About 9,500 customers remained without power in Iredell County at 6 p.m. and 15 roads were closed due to flooding or washouts, he said.
About 2.4 inches fell at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Thursday, with 3.5 inches at UNC Charlotte, according to the National Weather Service.
McDowell County, in the North Carolina foothills, declared a state of emergency in the morning because of extensive flash flooding as swift-water rescue teams were deployed and roadways flooded. A debris flow blocking part of a road was reported in Old Fort, and an emergency shelter opened in Marion.
Police in Boone reported flooded areas in the mountain town, with notices being delivered of potential evacuations.
Staff writer Cassie Cope contributed.