Heavy rain causing flooding across South

Published 3:01 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Heavy rain across the South on Wednesday caused flooding, school and road closures and a landslide that destroyed a home in North Carolina.

Thousands of people lost power across the Carolinas as a cold front swept the region with wind and rain, and a landslide destroyed a home in the mountains of western North Carolina.

One home in Haywood County was destroyed, but its occupants escaped with only minor injuries, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported. Emergency crews evacuated eight other homes in the Maggie Valley area.

“I’m just glad no one was killed,” said neighbor Carolyn Phillips.

Utilities said nearly 20,000 customers had lost power in North Carolina and South Carolina by midmorning and crews scrambled to restore service. Most outages were in North Carolina and were concentrated in central counties.

People in about 25 homes in eastern Tennessee were encouraged to evacuate in the face of rising waters. The rain also closed roads and caused two small rock slides.

In Mississippi, dozens of roads were closed, some homes evacuated Wednesday and at least two homes flooded following two days of heavy rain earlier in the week, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said.

“At this time, 34 roads in Lowndes County are closed, at least two homes are flooded and as many as 25 families are affected by the conditions,” MEMA said in a statement.

A shelter was opening at a church in the county to serve displaced residents.

Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia were also experiencing flooding. In addition to rain, a wind advisory issued for most of Georgia called for gusts ranging from 20 mph to 30 mph.

In West Virginia, the state’s major electric utilities, Allegheny Energy and Appalachian Power, reported there were thousands without power.

Nine roads and bridges were closed in West Virginia because of high water and downed power lines, the state Division of Highways said. Most of the problems were centered in Logan County in the southern part of the state.

Heavy rain flooded more than 30 roads in far southwest Virginia. Twenty secondary roads in Scott County were closed, as well as 12 in Lee County, Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Earl said.

Near Williamsburg, Va., the storm caused some minor damage to the Le Scoot flume ride at Busch Gardens Europe theme park. Park spokesman Kevin Crossett said a small to medium-size tree did very minor damage to the ride’s fiberglass trough.

As skies cleared in Alabama, parts of the state still struggled with scattered flooding from a lengthy deluge that led to rescue operations earlier in the week when cars were engulfed in water. Emergency crews evacuated about 70 people Monday night from a bingo hall in a low-lying area between Jasper and Sumiton. Crews returned Tuesday with a boat to reach employees who stayed behind.

In north Alabama, two teenagers from Arab had to be rescued by emergency personnel late Tuesday afternoon when their Jeep was swept away by rising water on a rural road.

“The boys were standing on top of the Jeep about 50 yards from dry land when we arrived,” Arab Fire Chief Ricky Phillips said.

The 18-year-old driver and his 17-year-old passenger were reeled to safety with a rope tied to a flat bottom boat.

But forecasts of falling temperatures brought the possibility that rain could soon give way to snow in some places.

In north Georgia, the National Weather Service forecast temperatures in the low 30s overnight with the possibility of snow showers. Winter storm warnings were issued for counties in West Virginia. A snow advisory was posted for several counties in far eastern Kentucky.