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Asheville, N.C. — The remnants of Tropical Depression Fred hit parts of western North Carolina hard, triggering flooding and mudslides. Several communities in Haywood County had to be evacuated late Tuesday night as rivers flooded into the streets.
On Wednesday afternoon, Haywood County officials told WRAL News approximately 30 people are missing. Search and rescue crews are looking for the missing people via land, water and air.
Nearly 9 inches of rain was reported in Haywood County as the National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Emergency. There was a life-threatening flood wave moving down the Pigeon River through Canton, Clyde, and into Lake Waterville at around 8:30 p.m. People were advised to evacuate to higher ground immediately.
The town of Canton was one of the hardest hit areas. Search and rescue task forces from Cary and New Hanover County traveled west to help residents there and shared photos of flooded neighborhoods.
The day after in Canton revealed no confirmed loss of life, but plenty of physical damage and disappointment at the Community Kitchen, a soup kitchen that’s served hot meals for the last 12 years. They are almost always open, but the kitchen closed Tuesday night in anticipation of flooding. Chairman Chris Jennings said they lost 200,000 pounds of food.
“This is obviously nasty,” Jennings said. “I’m sure there’s sewage in it and everything else. I know people lost their homes last night. 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.”
Many emergency crews are coming to Haywood County to help with the recovery effort.
Crews were floating in front of homes on rafts looking for people to rescue. Thirteen adults and two children were rescued on that mission, officials said.
Jessalyn Owensby, a Canton resident, posted photos and a video on Facebook that she saw parts of houses, a pool, a building and a truck all wash away in floodwaters. She said she even saved a mouse from drowning.
A mudslide was reported on the American Thread Road in McDowell County Tuesday at around 8 p.m. It’s unclear if anyone has been injured at this time.
The risk for flash flooding on Tuesday night was “as high as it gets,” according to WRAL meteorologist Kat Campbell.
Haywood County flooding
Mayor of Canton Zeb Smathers said he saw businesses and homes underwater on Tuesday night. He said he will only know the true amount of damage Fred left behind when the sun comes up on Wednesday.
“We are asking if you are in areas near the river, this is not a drill, this is serious, please move to higher ground, this is not over yet,” he said.
The only access bridge to Worley Cove Road in the town of Canton was completely washed out. People were trapped, unable to cross the road as water rushed by where the bridge once was.
Water continues to quickly rise along portions of the Pigeon River in Haywood County. WRAL meteorologist Aimee Wilmoth reports that the river is cresting at more than 16 feet — which is a new record.
Kasey Riddle, who owns a farm in Cruso, said she watched as people were swept away by the floodwaters.
“Our friend saw someone clinging to a bush and disappeared,” she said.
She also saw the floodwaters carry homes and cars away.
Photos show that water reached the top of Riddle’s cattle fence.
“Hopefully, all our cows are on high ground,” she said.
A rockslide on Interstate 40 near Asheville caused by the storm created a major traffic back-up. The interstate’s westbound lanes near Exit 37, or Wiggins Road, were closed for several hours.
More than 6 inches of rain was reported in Asheville on Tuesday night.
At the end of U.S. Highway 70, in Black Mountain, the Swannanoa River was breached, and was rushing into the streets.
Parking lots were flooded near the Dynamite Roasting Co., Brian Brace and Koppinger.
Officials say that the Swannanoa River in the Biltmore Village area could overflow sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. If that happens, the water will move down into the commercial district of Biltmore Village near Asheville.
Back in 2004, when the area was hit by back-to-back hurricanes, water was up to people’s shoulders in the village. Local businesses owners say almost all of the downtown shops were washed out.
Tornado watches and warnings were issued for dozens of counties in western North Carolina near Sugar Mountain and Banner Elk. The state saw more than a dozen tornadoes on Tuesday night. The triad was under a Tornado Watch until early Wednesday morning, and more tornadoes were possible.
Campbell said that Fred is giving the state the perfect “ingredients” for tornadoes.