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Governor Roy Cooper to Visit Several Affected Western Counties on Thursday

Landslides like this one in McDowell County have closed numerous roads across the mountain counties. (Photo courtesy NCDOT.)

While rains from Alberto are tapering off across western North Carolina, emergency officials are keeping a close watch on river and lake levels as the threat of flooding, landslides and mudslides remains significant. Initial reports indicate a landslide yesterday evening near Boone may have claimed two lives. Rescue teams recovered two bodies from the collapsed home where a gas leak also occurred.

“We are all deeply saddened to learn that this storm has likely claimed two more lives,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “Our thoughts are with the victims’ family and friends, and with the rescue crews working tirelessly at the scene of this tragedy and elsewhere across our state.”

Alberto is blamed for two deaths earlier in the week, when two people were killed in Polk County by a falling tree.

More showers and thunderstorms are forecast for today in western counties, especially during the afternoon. The Flash Flood Watch across the mountains and foothills has been extended until Friday morning due to saturated grounds, ongoing flooding, and the potential for new rainfall. While the potential for heavier rainfall is not as widespread as in recent days, stronger storms could drop 1-2 inches of rain per hour and flash flooding remains a threat.

Governor Cooper will visit McDowell, Rutherford and Polk counties today, to view some of the damage that has occurred, to thank emergency responders and learn what additional help is needed.

The State of Emergency that Governor Cooper declared Wednesday remains in effect, allowing for deployment of essential assets for storm response and recovery. Transportation waivers also are in effect to speed up the movement of utility vehicles and others engaged in relief operations.

About 50 roads remain closed in Avery, Burke, Clay, Buncombe, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Macon, McDowell, Pender, Polk, Rutherford, Swain and Transylvania counties. At the Buncombe-McDowell County line, one westbound lane of Interstate 40 near Mile Marker 66 was closed by a mudslide late Tuesday. Crews expect to fully restore traffic by 1 p.m. Friday.

“If you encounter a road that is flooded, washed out or blocked by trees or landslides, turn around,” Governor Cooper urged. “Crews are working to clear and reopen roads as soon as it’s safe to do so, and you can make their job easier by keeping out of their way.”

More than 400 NCDOT employees, 85 trucks and 30 pieces of construction equipment are working to clear and repair roads. Crews and equipment from areas east are prepared to join them, if needed.

Additional flooding and slides are possible with additional rain in the forecast for the region Thursday afternoon.

About 1,500 homes and businesses remain without power across the west and four shelters open in Buncombe, McDowell, Polk and Rutherford counties housed about 40 people last night. The State Emergency Response Team remains activated and emergency management, transportation and law enforcement officials are assisting counties with any response needs that arise.

State and local emergency management officials will begin surveying damages once conditions stabilize to determine what, if any, types of state or federal assistance may be available to help with storm clean up and recovery. 

For the latest information, follow @NCEmergency Management on Twitter and Facebook. Information is also available at ReadyNC.org and at the ReadyNC mobile app which can be downloaded for free. For the latest road conditions, visit DriveNC.gov.