At least 30 people remain missing Wednesday after flash flooding devastated parts of rural North Carolina as Tropical Depression Fred made its way through the state, leaving behind a wave of tornadoes and mudslides.
Many roads remained impassable, or completely washed away in the western part of the state Wednesday morning, as emergency officials in Haywood County were traveling by foot and ATVs to search for 30 people who are unaccounted for.
In each case, officials said in a news conference Wednesday morning, the individuals had not been heard from since the storm came through on Tuesday afternoon.
Emergency rescue crews were out Wednesday morning looking for survivors of Tropical Depression Fred, which ravaged North Carolina Tuesday night
They used rafts to float up to people’s houses, many of which were still submerged
By the end of the night, state and local crews rescued nearly 100 people
As of Wednesday morning though, county officials announced 30 people were still unaccounted for as roads remained impassable
Sheriff Greg Christopher also said his department is investigating reports of fatalities. He said the department first started receiving reports of ‘high water’ on Tuesday afternoon.
‘As the water level began to rise – a whole lot faster than I have ever saw it rise here in our county – we soon started to have to rescue people from their homes and provide additional assistance to our residents and to our fire departments,’ he said, according to Newsweek.
‘With the help from water rescue units from throughout the state of North Carolina, we have been searching abandoned vehicles, homes, buildings for survivors and we will continue to search to ensure that every community member is located or at least accounted for.’
Crews were seen Wednesday floating on rafts in front of people’s homes in the county, looking for people to rescue. They were able to save 13 adults and two children in that operation, according to WRAL.
The State Department of Transportation also reported that more than 500 employees ‘are working around the clock to help citizens get to and from home, work and school,’ the Raleigh News and Observer reports.
In total, ABC 11 reports, 98 people were rescued overnight.
Roads throughout the state were flooded, with vehicles stuck in the mud
Some roads have washed away completely, making it impossible to transverse
Homes in the area, though, were ‘completely destroyed,’ vehicles were damaged, multiple roads and bridges were washed out and servers were offline in the area, the News and Observer reports, and Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers said he saw businesses and homes completely submerged on Tuesday night.
Kasey Riddle, who owns a farm in nearby Cruso, said she watched as people were swept away by the floodwaters.
‘Our friend saw someone clinging to a bush and disappeared,’ she said.
Transylvania County, south of Asheville, declared a state of emergency after 10 inches fell Monday, causing landslides, flooding and destroying at least one home, according to FOX 8.
In Grovemont, east of Asheville, USA Today reports, residents were told to shelter in place as roads became impassable.
Transylvania Chairman Jason Chappell said it was the most intense flooding he’s seen in the last 20 years, as flood waters destroyed a local factory on Monday.
‘It really caught everyone off-guard,’ he said. ‘No one was forecasting that much rain.’
Some communities even had to be evacuated, WRAL reports, with emergency shelters open for residents who were warned to expect ‘widespread water outages’ due to water line breaks and the Canton Water Plant going offline.
Cell phone service was also down as of Wednesday morning, with more than 18,000 North Carolinians without power.
Meanwhile, a local soup kitchen that had been in operation for the past 12 years, lost about 200,000 pounds of food in the storm.
‘This is obviously nasty,’ County Chairman Chris Jennings said. ‘I’m sure there’s sewage in it and everything else.
‘I know people lost their homes last night,’ he added. ‘I know people lost everything they have, so for us to be down, it’s not a real good time for us to be down.’
Several rivers flooded nearby towns in the storm
A road could be seen here lifted up from the ground as tornadoes passed through the area
Cell phone service was down Wednesday morning, with more than 18,000 North Carolinians without electricity
Remnants of the tropical storm – which was downgraded to a tropical depression as it moved across North Carolina, dumped about 12 inches of rain in some areas of the state, according to the North Carolina Weather Authority and prompted ‘nearly 45 tornado warnings.’
It blew through the area with more than 30 mile per hour winds, with the risk for flash flooding Tuesday night ‘as high as it gets,’ according to meteorologist Kat Campbell.
The storm also caused a rockslide on Interstate 40, creating a major traffic back-up, and the Swannanoa River breached Highway 70 and was rushing into the street.
Life-threatening floods were moving down the Pigeon River at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, with people advised to evacuate to higher ground immediately.
It also spawned at least two tornadoes north of Charlottesville.
The first was reported at 11:45 a.m. in Alexander County, causing ‘numerous trees’ to collapse, but no injuries or damages to homes or buildings reported, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Then at 12:36 p.m., a second tornado was confirmed 13 miles south of Statesville, near the rural community of Harmony, according to the National Weather Service in Greer, South Carolina.
‘To repeat, a tornado is on the ground,’ an alert said. ‘TAKE COVER NOW! Move to a basement or an anterior room on the lowest floor of a study building. Avoid windows.
‘If you are outdoors, in a mobile home, or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.
‘Heavy rainfall may hide this tornado. Do not wait to hear the tornado. TAKE COVER NOW.’
The tornado moved north at 25 miles per hour before dissipating, the Observer reports. No injuries or damage were immediately reported.
Then at 3 p.m., there was another unconfirmed report of a tornado near Drexel.
The storm downgraded as it passed through North Carolina
States on the eastern seaboard stretching to New York remained under flash flood warnings
The storm is now losing steam as it moves up the eastern seaboard, with flash flood warnings extending into New York State.
It has caused one death in Florida.
Meanwhile, meteorologists are also keeping watch on Tropical Storm Henri and Hurricane Grace, which lashed Haiti – a country already suffering from an earthquake – dumping up to 10 inches of rain on people huddling under make-shift shelters.
Sustained winds grew to 65 miles per hour on Wednesday, with a hurricane warning in effect for Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.