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One last round of drenching rain from Tropical Storm Florence made driving hazardous Monday and forced some local residents to flee rising floodwaters.
The morning commute was slow-going for many who found themselves driving through deep water and, in some cases, coming to a complete stop. Videos posted to social media showed water covering heavily traveled roads, including Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and Duke Street in Durham.
Many roads in Orange and Durham counties still remained impassable by afternoon, and both counties warned drivers to remain cautious. Orange County posted a list of roads to avoid. In Chapel Hill, the Eastgate Crossin g and University Place parking lots were flooded.
Durham County Sheriff’s Office deputies reported from their patrols that high water had crested multiple roads around Durham County Monday morning.
The weather and unsafe road conditions could delay their response in an emergency, Durham sheriff’s officials said in a news release.
“Our Patrol Unit will exercise caution to ensure they arrive safely when responding to calls for service,” they said. “Deputies driving in the county, on rural roads, and highways will be on the lookout for stranded motorists or abandoned vehicles.”
Deputies planned to tie yellow tape to abandoned cars, they said, so that other law enforcement agencies and drivers would know the car had been checked. Deputies also were conducting welfare checks by request.
In Carrboro, police blockaded several roads as the rains pushed creeks and University Lake over their banks, including the Jones Ferry Road bridge over the lake and the busy North Greensboro Street and Estes Drive intersection. Smith Level Road in Carrboro also was closed for a time after a tree fell across it early Monday.
Crews were still checking on floodprone areas, Carrboro Fire Chief Susanna Williams said in an email, including neighborhoods west of town near Jones Ferry Road and Springhill Forest Road. Emergency responders were working with neighboring agencies to respond to that area, where the road was washed out and impassable, she said.
Although Carrboro only reported a few people evacuated from the Estes Park Apartments, police reached out to multiple neighborhoods about the threat of rising floodwaters. Residents in the Yorktown and Heritage Hills neighborhoods decided to stay in their homes, Williams said.
Chapel Hill police and the South Orange Rescue Square rescued more than a dozen people from the floodprone Camelot Village Condominiums on South Estes Drive. Although town staff went door-to-door at the complex on Wednesday, handing out fliers and asking residents to move to the emergency shelter at Smith Middle School, that shelter closed Sunday.
Emergency responders returned to the complex around midnight Sunday to let residents know the water was about 6 feet above flood stage and rising. Several residents agreed to evacuate to the Red Cross shelter at UNC’s Friday Center.
By Monday morning, the floodwaters had reached 10.5 feet, equal to flood levels seen during a devastating June 2013 flood at Camelot Village. That storm damaged 72 of 116 condos, forcing residents to evacuate and many to move away. Another flood followed in December 2013, affecting 21 condos.
The complex has been evacuated multiple times in the past for flooding. Although the town contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency more than once about buying out the complex, which was built in 1967 between two floodplains, officials have not been able to strike a deal with condo owners, many of whom do not live there.
Shopping center flooded
At Eastgate Crossing on Monday, Steve Hammer, took off his shoes, rolled up his jeans and waded into the muddy, brown water.
His 2005 Pontiac G6 sat with water halfway up its wheels — and a line of dirt just below the door handles where the water had peaked.
“The battery shorted,” said Hammer, 40.
The Carrboro resident who just from Raleigh had left the car the shopping center Sunday night while he helped a friend with handyman work Sunday night.
“I didn’t even think about the potential for flooding,” he said. He took an Uber back to Eastgate on Monday morning, and when he saw the water covering the parking lot said, “Oh crap, my car’s in there.”
Hammer bought the car two months ago from a friend, he said.
“I’m still making payments on it.”