Heavy rain prompts flash flood warnings in Charlotte area; three who died identified

States of emergency were declared in two western N.C. counties Sunday as heavy rain continued across the Charlotte region after flooding that turned deadly on Saturday.

North Carolina’s State Highway Patrol said three people died west of Lincolnton Saturday evening after the vehicle they were traveling in crashed into Rockdam Creek, trapping them under six feet of water.

The victims’ identities were released Sunday evening. The driver of the 2008 Ford Escape was Loyde J. Neal, 52, of Lincolnton, according to the Highway Patrol. The front passenger was Sebastian Lee Fredell, 22, of Lincolnton, and the rear passenger was Andrew Jacob Abernathy, 46, of Shelby.

Saturday’s fatal crash happened at about 7:50 p.m. on N.C. 27 near Rock Dam Road, according to a press release from the Highway Patrol.

“The preliminary investigation indicates a vehicle was traveling west on N.C. 27, hydroplaned and ran off the road, collided with a tree, and overturned in Rockdam Creek,” Master Trooper Jeffrey Swagger said in the release.

“All three occupants were trapped in the vehicle, which was on its side and submerged in approximately 6 feet of water. The creek waters were higher than normal due to heavy rainfall over the past two days. Rescue efforts were greatly hindered by extremely heavy rainfall at the time.”

Upstate South Carolina and North Carolina remain under a flash flood watch that is expected to last through Sunday evening, according to the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C. Some areas were expected to see as much as 4 inches of additional rain Sunday.

Charlotte is expected to see thunderstorms into Monday evening with a 70 percent chance of rain, according to the weather service. On Tuesday, there is a 40 percent chance of rain for Charlotte.

In Rock Hill, S.C., kayak and canoe launches were closed Sunday due to high water levels on the Catawba River.

Showers and thunderstorms are expected to continue into Monday in Rock Hill, according to the National Weather Service. Tuesday calls for a 50 percent chance of showers with a high near 79 degrees.

Duke Energy’s online data showed that five lakes on the upper Catawba River -- lakes James, Rhodhiss, Lookout Shoals, Norman and Mountain Island -- were above full capacity late Sunday afternoon.

Catawba County

Catawba County commissioners declared a state of emergency early Sunday due to heavy rain and potential flooding. The declaration will allow emergency services to coordinate recovery efforts, a statement said.

“The excessive rainfall has resulted in numerous water rescues, severe flooding, infrastructure damage, hazardous travel conditions and the potential for widespread power outages for residents in the County,” read a statement from the board.

Several Catawba County parks and roads were closed Sunday, according to Catawba County Emergency Services.

The City of Hickory also declared a state of emergency as of 9 a.m. Sunday.

“Since Friday afternoon, the City of Hickory has experienced prolonged periods of heavy rainfall, resulting in flooding and flash flooding in some areas,” reads a release from city officials. “Flooding in the City has resulted in significant infrastructure damage to streets, bridges, and other public infrastructure, as well as citizens being displaced from their homes.”

The Hickory Fire Department has done 12 water rescues since Friday, according to the city. Waterline breaks may lead to service interruptions for some residents. Officials say drinking water is not expected to be affected.

“City crews are working to restore service as quickly as safely possible,” the release states. “Service may not be restored in some affected areas until water levels recede enough to allow crews to safely access infrastructure damage and make necessary repairs.”

City of Hickory parks will be closed Monday.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation closed multiple roads Sunday. Hickory officials also blocked some roads. A full list of closures is available on the county’s emergency services website.

Residents of Ridgecrest Apartments in Hickory have been relocated due to flooding, said a release from county emergency services.

A shelter has been set up at Catawba Valley Community College’s Tarlton Complex, at 2550 U.S. Hwy 70 SE in Hickory, the release states. The shelter is open to residents and pets who have been displaced by the storm.

American Red Cross volunteers and Catawba County personnel are assisting at the shelter. Residents seeking shelter are asked to bring needed medications, a change of clothes, pet vaccination records, pet food and supplies and personal care items such as a toothbrush, the release states.

Caldwell County

A state of emergency was declared at 10 a.m. Sunday in Caldwell County due to flooding, a release states. Residents were asked to avoid flooded areas, never to drive flooded roadways and not to call 911 to report power outages, a release states.

Power outages are expected at 7 p.m. Sunday due to storm-related maintenance by the Valmead Substation Facility, according to the county. The outage will affect Lenoir on 321 to Grace Chapel area: Lenoir, 18N, HWY 90, Cedar Rock Country Club and West towards Connelly Springs. Affected customers will receive a phone call.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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