Raleigh tells thousands of people to seek higher ground
With predictions that Hurricane Florence could dump rain across the state for several days, Raleigh officials said Wednesday they are urging residents in low-lying areas to seek higher ground.
City staff is using reverse-911 to contact about 26,000 residents who live near Crabtree and Walnut creeks and their tributaries and warn them of potential flooding during and after Florence, City Manager Ruffin Hall said.
“If that doesn’t work, we’re going to put fliers, door hangers, on each person’s door,” Hall said. “Our goal here is to try to notify those that have been, in the past, the most flood-prone in advance of the storm.”
Crabtree Creek frequently overflows its banks in heavy rainstorms, so major flooding is expected from Florence, he said. Still, there’s very little Raleigh officials can do other than monitor the numerous stream gauges set at various points along the creek and inform people as water levels change, he said.
Gloria Harris said she didn’t know her home at the Brentwood West Apartments complex, near Marsh Creek in north Raleigh, was flood-prone.
“I am going to seek shelter. I am going to have a plan. I am going to keep an eye on it and seek shelter,” Harris said after a firefighter notified her that she should seek higher ground.
Raleigh has three swift-water rescue teams, along with two backup teams, prepared to help people get out of flooded areas, Hall said.
Darren Woodland, who lives at the Brook Hill Apartments complex in southwest Raleigh, near Walnut Creek, spent Wednesday moving all of his valuables to the second floor of his apartment in anticipation of flooding from Florence.
“I have never seen something quite as large as a Cat 4 [hurricane], so I am a little bit worried that the creek that is back here may flood my apartment,” Woodland said.
Brook Hill managers have boarded up doors and told tenants to get out.
Woodland packed up his pet ferret and left, hoping he will have a home to return to.
“I’m trying to save my couches while I can. I am going to stack it up on some cinder blocks and see if that will help,” resident Austin Hembree said.
Raleigh already has lowered the levels of Lake Johnson, Lake Benson and Lake Wheeler so they can absorb some of Florence’s rain, Hall said.
The city also is working on a debris removal plan and is coordinating with Duke Energy on how best to restore power after the storm passes, he said.
A non-emergency phone line will be activated Thursday at 919-996-2999 so residents can call in reports of downed trees and other problems.
“Our goal is to put this city back on its feet as soon as possible,” Hall said.
“Our city staff and first responders will be taking care of the direst needs first, so I’m asking us all first of all to be safe,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said. “Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations. But do be mindful of those around you – the elderly neighbor who lives alone, the family that needs a meal of just some water. Most of all we will need each other.”
One issue most Raleigh residents don’t have to worry about is drinking water, Hall said.
Raleigh’s water treatment plants have backup power, so they will be operating even if Florence knocks out power to the area.