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Officials: Expect the unexpected during flash flooding

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Greenville residents can expect flash-flooding from Hurricane Florence, but they should not rely on past experience alone to gauge where it will occur, officials said.

The storm is expected to bring up to eight inches of rain through Saturday, the National Weather Service reported Thursday. That means low-lying areas that typically flood in Greenville and Pitt County likely will flood again over the next several days. 

However, it does not mean that places that have been dry in the past will remain dry, Greenville Police Department Chief Mark Holtzman said.

“The thing with flash flooding is don’t just base it on your past experience,” he said. “We anticipate flooding in areas and roadways not seen before. For that reason, we’re asking that If you see standing water, do not attempt to drive through it for your own safety and reduce the likelihood that first responders risk their lives to make a rescue. Just because you don’t see a barricade does not mean it’s safe to drive through.”

The city has identified areas likely to see flash flooding based experience and the city’s watershed master plan, which includes stormwater research, Lisa Kirby, an engineer with the city’s public works department said. Locations identified by the city include:

■ Lynndale neighborhood near Martinsborough Road and Crown Point Road

■ Lakewood Pines neighborhood

■ Arlington Boulevard and Mulberry Lane vicinity

■ Areas near Elm Street and First Street

■ Areas near 14th Street and Elm Street. 

■ Areas near First Street and Woodlawn Avenue

■ Areas near South Pitt Street and Ninth Street

■ Areas near Reade Circle and Cotanche Street 

■ Areas near Davis and Vance Streets with Fourth Street. 

■ Countryside Estates neighborhood

■ Areas near Memorial Drive and Moore Road

“This is all more than likely,” Kirby said, stressing the uncertainty. “I don’t want people to be panicked and think ‘I can’t get home.’ We’ll continue to update on our website as things happen, but we know that we see flash flooding in those areas.“

Kirby also stressed that the list does not include all areas that could see flash flooding, as Florence could bring new flood conditions the city has not experienced before. She urged residents to remain vigilant to conditions and continue to monitor the city’s website and other resources.  

Holtzman urged residents to just generally avoid driving through any amount of water, regardless of how deep it appears to be. First responders made about 100 rescued during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Areas that experienced flash flooding then included: 

■ 14th Street and Charles Boulevard

■ 10th Street and College Hill 

■ 10th Street and Forrest Hill Circle

■10th Street and Oxford Road

■ First Street and Brownlea Drive

■ Reade Street and Cotanche Street 

■ Evans Street and Deck Street 

■ Evans Street and Arlington Boulevard 

■ Arlington Boulevard and Red Banks Road

■ Arlington Boulevard near Fire Tower Road

■ Dickinson Avenue underpass

■ Old Tar Road south of Fire Tower

Greenville Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Rebekah Thurston said emergency personnel will respond to calls during Florence as long in Greenville will not be able to respond if sustained winds are higher than 45 mph. 

Kirby said that during the storm and in the days after, residents also should remain vigilant to conditions along the Tar River and feeder streams throughout the city like Green Mill Run, Meeting House Branch, Swift Creek, Fork Swamp.

She said residents could use Hurricane Matthew conditions as a cautionary measure to gauge how the subsidiary waterways may react to Florence. 

“The forecast keeps changing, but I would say we’ll pretty much see the normal along the Tar River and the branches that come into the Tar River close to where they actually connect to the river.”

She said mandatory evacuations are not typical for flash flooding due to the lack of advanced notice, but the city would continue to evaluate rising water levels throughout the storm and its aftermath. 

Contact Seth Gulledge at 329-9579 and Sgulledge@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth