UPDATE: Michael brings flooding to Swannanoa Valley, prompts early release in district

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

UPDATE: Buncombe County Schools announced early dismissal for all students in the Owen District due to Tropical Storm Michael. Students from the Black Mountain primary and elementary schools, W.D. Williams and Owen Middle School will be dismissed at 11 a.m. All extracurricular activites scheduled in the Owen District today have been canceled. 

After making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on the panhandle of Florida on Wednesday, Tropical Storm Michael brought heavy rains to the eastern side of Buncombe County on Thursday morning. 

As heavy rains from Tropical Storm Michael fall, Lake Tomahawk inches closer to the Lakeview Community Center in Black Mountain.

Multiple roads in Black Mountain were closed as water from Flat Creek and the Swannanoa River spilled over their banks, forcing the town to activate its Emergency Operation Center, which it first employed during Tropical Depression Florence less than a month ago. 

"We've had a lot of calls already," said Black Mountain police chief Shawn Freeman, who will oversee the operation with deputy fire chief John Wilson. "We had to recover a car this morning that was stuck in some pretty fast-moving water."

The Swannanoa River spills over Blue Ridge Road as Tropical Storm Michael brings heavy rain to the region on Oct. 11.

Blue Ridge Road, south of U.S. 70, was closed as the Swannanoa River was flowing over a bridge, scattering debris along the road. The town also closed a portion of U.S. 70 in front of the Ingles warehouse, where standing water made it impassible, Freeman said. 

Charlotte Street, which runs behind Black Mountain Primary School, was closed after Flat Creek began overflowing near the greenway. Local officials anticipate weather conditions will worsen throughout the day. 

In Black Mountain, heavy rain from Tropical Storm Michael caused Flat Creek to spill over its banks on Oct. 11, forcing public works crews to close Charlotte Street.

"The worst of this system is in front of us," Freeman said. "We expect rain to continue to fall throughout the day. We could see more flooding."

The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning for southeastern Buncombe County around 5 a.m. That notice was in effect until 11:30 a.m. 

The Broad River Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department, which serves and area hit particularly hard by heavy rains in recent months, was also seeing "heavy call volume," according to assistant chief Bruce Cook. 

"We have multiple roads closed and the river has left its banks," he said. "People should stay home, or if they feel threatened by rising water, seek higher ground."

Cook said his department was working to provide updates on its Facebook page. 

"We'll be updating that as best we can as the day goes on," he said. 

On the western side of the Swannanoa Valley, Old U.S. 70 was under standing water beyond Lake Eden Road. Motorists drove slowly through the area as road conditions continued to worsen. 

Reports of power outages in the area continue to come in.