Dry land nowhere in sight around Polk County

Published 8:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2018

More than 10 roads closed during Tuesday’s rains

POLK COUNTY — Many area residents stayed up late Tuesday night watching water creep near or take over their properties,  as rains continued to pour from above.

Lake Lanier rose over docks Tuesday night, the Pacolet and Green Rivers were over their banks and, although Lake Adger was lowered prior to the storms, the water still rose 3 feet over the Turner Shoals Dam.

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And it is not over yet.

Polk County has seen five times the rain it normally receives during the month of May in a little over two weeks, and that trend will continue at least through this week.

The Pacolet River behind Harmon Field was raging late Tuesday afternoon just prior to torrential rains occurring later in the evening. The beach area has been wiped out in the last two weeks as the area has seen five times the rain it normally gets for the month. (Photo by Leah Justice/Tryon Daily Bulletin)

Tuesday brought about 4 inches of rain to Tryon, with 11 roads having to be closed that evening because of torrential downpours throughout the county.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday morning the area could expect another 1-2 inches of rain that day.

Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said it is pretty much going to be the same rain through the rest of the week, which may possibly clear out on Saturday.

“The teams from the state emergency management office have been doing assessments through all this,” Pittman said. “We are going to transition from response mode to recovery mode after this rain event is over. It’s hard to start recovery efforts when damage is still occurring.”

At least one water rescue was done Tuesday night when a car got stranded at Green River Highlands, according to county officials.

Numerous people called the county saying they were evacuating U.S. 176 in the Pacolet Valley, Pittman said. Over 100 people had already evacuated or called the county to say no one would be at the home from the Pacolet Valley over the weekend.

In addition, a mobile home park at 1982 U.S. 176 was evacuated Tuesday night, according to Polk County officials.

A shelter remains open at Polk County Middle School, with one person staying there as of Wednesday morning. Pittman said the shelter will remain open as long as it is needed.

Pittman said the county lowered Lake Adger prior to Tuesday’s rains, but with all the water and debris coming from the mountains into the Green River, the water is still flowing over the top of the dam.

“We’re getting a lot of water we’re having to deal with,” Pittman said.

A contractor is cleaning debris from the top of Turner Shoals Dam to avoid any damage.

It was unknown as of Wednesday how many residents were without power on Tuesday, and Pittman said Duke Energy alerted the county Tuesday night that they could not do any service after 11 p.m. because it was too dangerous to come out unless it was an emergency.

As of noon Wednesday, around 120 Polk County residents were still without power, according to an outage map on Duke Energy’s website.

County officials are urging residents to use extreme caution while driving this week.

Roads that were closed Tuesday included the southern portion of U.S. 176 in Tryon; Warrior Drive between Baker and Meadowlark; parts of Holbert’s Cove Road; Green River Cove Road; Levi Road at Woodland Drive; Hunting Country at Carriage Row Road; Abrams & Moore Road; portions of Pea Ridge Road; Womack Road; and portions of Howard Gap Road.

Although some roads were open Wednesday, county officials said, with more rain coming, the same roads and more could be closed again this week.

“There’s no good in any of this,” Pittman said. “We just hope no one else gets hurt. That’s our main objective right now… to keep everyone safe.”

Pittman urged people who do not need to travel to stay home. Drivers who see a road closed sign or cones across a road should not continue.

“We don’t have the resources to man all these closures,” Pittman said. “Know if a road is closed, it is closed for a reason.”

There have been three people who have died because of recent rains.

The first death was on May 18, when mudslides occurred in the Pacolet Valley and took the life of Patricia Case, 59, of Tryon.

Rain has continued since, and on Monday, two journalists were killed, also on U.S. 176 in Tryon.

Mike McCormick, 36, and Aaron Smeltzer, 35, with WYFF News 4 out of Greenville, died while covering the weather in Tryon when a tree fell on their vehicle.

Local emergency crews and the North Carolina Department of Transportation have been working for more than two weeks to clean up mudslides and debris in the valley.

State geologists have done aerial assessments of the Pacolet Valley area, which originally detected 12 mudslides. Prior to Tuesday’s rains, geologists updated those figures to 33 slides.