The View From The Mountains As Flood Waters Begin To Recede

Jun 1, 2018

Rain is still in the forecast for western North Carolina Friday, but it's beginning to taper off after a couple of wet weeks. Recovery crews have been taking stock of the damage from flooding and landslides triggered by subtropical tropical storm Alberto. 

Blue Ridge Public Radio's Matt Bush has been covering the storm. He joined “Morning Edition” host Marshall Terry for an update. Here are some highlights of that interview:

The interview has been edited for clarity.   

How are things looking this morning in the mountains?

Much better than they have really all week. We’ve gotten a break in the rain. We did have some rain overnight, but nothing at least severe enough that it caused some new flooding.  The National Weather Service had said it would only take another inch to re-trigger flooding or make areas where the floodwaters hadn't come down yet become a major issue again. So, at least right now, things are better because of a break in the weather that allowed some of the rivers to go down, but there are thunderstorms in the forecast again this afternoon and in the afternoon for the next two days as well.

Is there still a risk of more flooding and landslides today or in the coming days?

We have no flood watch or warning right now for the first time in about three days in the region. So there isn't, at least at this point, a risk of more flooding until the storms come in the afternoon. Landslides, though, that's going to be an issue I think for a few days really until a few dry days get strung together here to let the ground dry out. Because two feet of rain in two weeks just saturates the ground and that's really what I think the bigger problem in the area right now is.  

Do we have any idea of the extent of the damage so far?

So far it's been worse in McDowell and Polk counties, but the crews there are still trying to assess some of the bigger things that happened. They've determined there was no damage to the Lake Tahoma dam. That was the one that caused the biggest evacuation Wednesday morning. There were mudslides up on Interstate 40 in McDowell County. Most of the road has been finally reopened. I think there's still one lane that the state is working to get open later today. But there's a lot of areas that the damage is going to take a while to really assess because they're in rural parts of the state and rural parts that are going to take a little while for emergency crews really to get a handle on.

Any damages to the homes and businesses there in Asheville and also the surrounding area?

So in Asheville the biggest flooding happened on Wednesday morning in the Biltmore Village area which is near the Biltmore Estate. That's an area that has a lot of shops and restaurants and all that. But the water went up less than a foot. Many of the businesses were able to reopen yesterday having taken a day off.

Alberto is being blamed for at least four deaths in North Carolina. Have you heard any reports of any other serious injuries?

We haven't heard about anything else serious.

What can the region expect in terms of help recovering from these storms?

Governor Cooper did issue declare a state of emergency on Wednesday morning which will allow for some federal dollars to come in once all the damages are assessed. There are some state disaster recovery funds that can also come in after that.