By Tim Gardner
Heavy rains from Hurricane Michael have created many problems in Avery County, where extensive flooding has occurred.
As much as six inches of rain has fallen across the region in the last couple days. Runoff from the heavy rains into creeks and streams caused sudden increases in water levels and flows, even in areas where rainfall has been lighter. Streets, other roadways and parking lots became rivers of moving water, while various bridges were weakened or washed out. The flooding also has created mudslides and rockslides in some places.
Avery County Emergency personnel have responded to a few dozen calls, some of which have been vehicle accidents as a result of the flooding.
Avery County’s public schools dismissed at 2:00 p.m. today and Newland Elementary dismissed at 1:30 p.m.
The Towns of Banner Elk and Newland were especially pounded from the flooding. The hardest hit included the Riverwalk area and at the waterfalls across from Ingles and Roses stores in Newland and in Banner Elk on the Tynecastle Highway at the Best Western Lodge and across from the old Cannon Hospital, on Dobbins Road and at the duck pond area, just off Hickory Nut Gap Road below Lees-McRae College’s Williams Gymnasium.
Besides Newland and Banner Elk, other locations in Avery County experiencing flooding are Beech Mountain, Linville Land Harbor, Pineola and Minneapolis.
Due to the flooding in Linville Land Harbor, a mandatory evacuation was declared for residents of the Linville Meadows, Highland Hills and High Crest areas there. An emergency shelter was set up at the Land Harbor Recreation Complex.
Additionally, residences were evacuated in the Jeremy Lane area near Minneapolis.
Also, an emergency shelter for anyone who may need it has been set up at the Old Rock School Gymnasium in Newland.
More impacts from the flooding rain are still unfolding across the region. The flooding may prompt more evacuations and rescues. Stream gauges have indicated that both Wilson Creek and North Toe River were in flood stages. Water is covering roads in those drainage basins.
Winds also expected to be a problem the remainder of the day and into the evening. Though sustained winds likely ware expected to remain below tropical-storm force, a few tropical-storm force gusts above 39 miles-per-hour (mph) are possible. The gusty winds that may occur could still down trees and power lines, especially as soils become more saturated due to the heavy rainfall.
According to meteorologists, the flooded streams and rivers may take a few days to recede. But fortunately, Michael is fast moving and rainfall is expected to diminish across the warned area through this afternoon and into the evening.
Meteorologists are predicting a moderate drop in temperatures starting Friday with highs in the upper 50s of low 60s and lows dipping into the lower 40s before temperatures warm up slightly into the lower to mid 60s next week. But there is only a slight chance of rain during each of the next several days.