For the first time in several days, Western North Carolina is under no weather warning. But thunderstorms are in the forecast Friday and over the weekend, leaving authorities to urge residents to stay alert and vigilant for flash flooding and landslides. During a break in the rain Thursday morning and afternoon, cleanup efforts were able to take hold, but a major water leak in Black Mountain lead to a boil water advisory being issued.
Black Mountain mayor Don Collins declared a state of emergency for the town Thursday. A major water leak also interrupted service in Black Mountain, prompting the boil water advisory. On the town's website, residents were urged to conserve water until further notice and "vigorously boil water for 1 minute before consuming it. The town will be performing laboratory testing and will lift the advisory once tests confirm a risk is not present. When water systems experience low pressure or lose pressure, there is an increased risk of contamination. This does not mean that the water is contaminated, but that the possibility exists."
Just after 10 Wendesday morning, McDowell County authorities confirmed the Lake Tahoma dam was safe, ending several frantic hours after a landslide hit a portion of the dam northwest of Marion. Initial reports indicated the dam's failure was 'imminent' and caused mandatory evacuations of areas south of the dam. Those evacuation orders were lifted once the dam was deemed safe. Just after midnight authorities called for the mandatory evacuation of areas south of the dam that holds up the private lake due to a landslide which they said compromised its integrity. Around 3:30 Wednesday morning McDowell County emergency management confirmed no breaks in the dam, but added inspectors could not fully examine it until daylight hours. Nearby, landslides caused both sides of Interstate 40 to be closed for several hours around Old Fort, trapping some vehicles in mud. No serious injuries were reported. By Thursday, only the right lane of the westbound side of the road was still closed. NCDOT hoped to have all lanes running again by Friday afternoon.
In Asheville, the Biltmore Village area saw flooding from the Swannanoa River Wednesday morning. Most of the waters had begun to recede by early afternoon, but businesses were closed throughout the area. The Biltmore Estate was open, but the main entrance was closed. At the nearby Biltmore Station center, business owners said flood waters reached about 5 inches before it receded. That didn't cause much damage other than soaked floors and carpeting, but it was enough to keep them closed for the day. Late Thursday afternoon, the city said most roads had reopened, except for -
- Azalea Road is still closed, but passable by for emergency vehicles.
- Lyman Street at Riverside is still closed at the old 12 Bones location.
- Riverside is closed from Lyman Street to Hill Street.
Several parks in the city alongside the French Broad River were still closed Thursday, including Carrier and Amboy Riverfront. The French Broad River park was partially open. Speaking to Blue Ridge Public Radio there, Hartwell Carson, the French Broad Riverkeeper for Mountain True, says while residents may find the closures an inconvenience, the parks are doing their job right now. "We know the flood plain is going to flood...it's just a matter of when and how severe," Carson says. "These parks are great because the water comes up, it soaks into the ground, it's allowed out of its banks, which really helps downstream properties. The more water you can release into the flood plain reduces downstream flooding." Carson adds parks and businesses have replaced many junkyards that used to line the river when the last time it flooded to this degree in 2004, which he says will help keep down new pollution that typically occurs after flooding.
North Carolina governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for the western part of the state late Wednesday morning. "Our emergency response and transportation crews have been working through the night to keep North Carolinians safe as conditions deteriorate," Governor Cooper said in a statement. "But this storm isn't yet over. I'm urging people to keep a close eye on forecasts and flood watches, and asking drivers to use caution especially when travelling in our western counties." Governor Cooper toured areas stricken by flooding in McDowell, Polk, and Rutherford Counties Thursday afternoon. The Red Cross was no longer operating any shelters for evacuees in the region as of Friday afternoon.