Tropical Depression Florence begins its assault on the Swannanoa Valley

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

As morning turned to afternoon emergency personnel anticipate conditions to worsen in the Swannanoa Valley as Tropical Depression Florence continues its assault on the area. 

Black Mountain officials activated an Emergency Operations Center in the Public Safety Room in the police department early in the afternoon on Sunday, Sept. 16, as call volume related to the impact of Florence increased throughout the day. 

Reports of fallen trees and downed power lines came in from all over the area, according to chief Shawn Freeman, who anticipates the weather to deteriorate as the day goes on. 

The water level in Flat Creek rises nearly to the banks just after noon on Sept. 16 behind Black Mountain Primary School. Town officials anticipate the creek will breach its banks later in the afternoon.

"The worst of it should start sometime after 3 p.m.," he said. "We're still not sure how long that will last."

Freeman said his department had been making contact with residents along Flat Creek since the morning, urging them to seek higher ground as the water levels rise. 

"For the people who haven't left we've warned them to monitor the situation and not wait until it's too late," he said. "In some of those areas, if they wait too late our guys may or may not be able to get to them.

"In the May floods we were really lucky that as the waters got ankle deep, our guys were wading in the water, sometimes waist-deep, to get to houses," he continued. "But this water from Florence could potentially come up so fast we may not have that option."

Lake Susan in Montreat, which was nearly empty on Sept. 15, is almost full just after 1 p.m. on Sept. 16 after Tropical Depression Florence begins dumping rain on Eastern Buncombe County.

In the event of those instances, Freeman said, the town would call for swift water rescue teams from the N.C. Urban Search and Rescue units stationed in the area.

Fire, police and public works employees are staffing the EOC, which is designed to help field calls for assistance as they come in and rank them in order of importance. 

"We have multiple teams from each department," Freeman said. "We have multiple reports of trees down, blocking roadways, and we have our law enforcement teams monitoring the creeks and rivers."

Lake Susan in Montreat is nearly filled to capacity after being nearly empty before Tropical Depression Florence began dumping rain on the Swannanoa Valley.

Flat Creek, behind Black Mountain Primary School, could crest "any minute," Freeman said just before 2 p.m. While nothing severe has been reported yet, according to the chief, the roadways are beginning flood in spots.

"We haven't seen anything extensive there yet," he said. "But where it forms ponds in the roads we're starting to see reports of accidents, because when that happens a lot of people don't see it until it's too late and they hydroplane."

No injuries associated with Tropical Depression Florence had been reported as of 2 p.m.