By Nathan Ham
Steady rains arrived on Thursday and hung around the High Country all weekend long, bringing along with it some serious flooding issues in Watauga, Avery and Ashe counties.
Many roads were closed and even some of the main highways in and out of Boone had brief lane closures, including Highway 421 in Deep Gap where a mudslide closed one lane.
One of the hardest hit areas in Watauga County was Valle Crucis where approximately seven inches of rain fell and left much of the Valle Crucis Community Park underwater. and many side roads closed. Valle Crucis Elementary School was also hit hard again in the storm as is typical for large rainfall events such as this one.
“We saw impacts from this weekend’s storms across the county affecting several of our schools in different ways. Valle Crucis was affected most directly. We saw flooding there that’s unfortunately very typical for this type of storm at that school. Several classrooms in the lower lying areas of the school were flooded with groundwater,” said Garrett Price, Director of Communications for Watauga County Schools. “Our maintenance crews worked overtime this weekend to mitigate the damage and get the building ready for school this morning. We really want to thank them for their hard work. They go above and beyond in ways that are hard to enumerate in situations like this.”
Three schools in the county had to deal with phone outages and Parkway School had lost power to the well house and the outside mobile units. The well reservoir had enough pressure to provide water to the school, however Blue Ridge Energy is working on replacing an underground power line.
The most significant flood relates problems were at Valle Crucis School where Dutch Creek crested its banks and flowed onto the school property. Groundwater came up through the foundation in the same four classrooms that have been flooded and repaired several times. Maintenance crews worked all day Sunday and overnight last night, and a restoration crew arrived this morning to assess the damage. Even though the classrooms are now dry, Price said that Valle Crucis will not be using the classrooms for the remainder of the week. The school grounds also had extensive flooding of the parking lots, playground and all the property behind the school.
With the many roads closed and some areas still dealing with high water problems, Watauga County Schools operated on a one-hour delay.
According to meteorologist David Still at Ray’s Weather Center, there have been reports of up to 14 inches of rain in spots in the High Country from this storm with the highest rainfall totals being along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“The reports we have with the biggest rainfall totals were all within about a mile of the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Still.
Still said that this storm acted a lot like a tropical storm system would moving slowly and pulling up a ton of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, which led to the widespread flooding issues and high rainfall totals.
“We had a really slow moving area of low pressure over the southeast and it just pumped gulf moisture straight up the spine of the mountains for three days straight. It intensified Saturday night and that’s when we really got it,” he said.
Power outages were also an issue with the bad weather. According to Renee R. Whitener, Director of Public Relations at Blue Ridge Energy, around 3,000 members dealt with outage issues from this storm. As of noon on Monday, all but 25 customers have had their power restored in Watauga, Ashe, Caldwell and Wilkes counties.
Blue Ridge Energy line crews worked through the evening on Sunday, using ATVs to reach any assessable areas after heavy rain and flooding washed out roads and brought down trees on power lines, causing damage to the electric system that has impacted several thousand members.
Looking ahead at the rest of the week, rain from this storm should leave the area by Monday evening. Tuesday should be a dry day with a mix of sun and clouds. A slight chance of showers returns to the area on Wednesday and Thursday before the week comes to an end with a beautiful sunny day on Friday. High temperatures will be in the upper 60s for most of the week with a chance to top 70 degrees on Tuesday and Friday.
Rainfall Totals (data courtesy of Ray’s Weather Center)