In WNC, Florence causes problems but not as bad as was feared
ASHEVILLE – Florence proved to be a bit of tease for much of Western North Carolina Sunday, but remnants of the hurricane did do damage in places and there was a chance of more overnight.
The storm tracked a little more northward than expected, said Kimberly McMahon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Greer, South Carolina.
That meant the heavy bands of rain that were expected on the north side of what was a tropical depression as of 5 p.m. Sunday were further to the north. Sunday was a wet day, but the Asheville area at least did not get hit as hard as it might have.
However, a number of roads had already been damaged in Yancey County on Sunday and a handful of people were evacuated from a mobile home park Sunday afternoon in Black Mountain because of flooding.
U.S. 19 West was closed northwest of Burnsville and N.C. 197 was closed between the Celo and Pensacola communities south of the Yancey County seat.
There were concerns that flooding could worsen in Black Mountain and that Swannanoa, Bat Cave, Chimney Rock, Old Fort and other areas generally to the east of Asheville might see flooding Sunday night or early Monday.
Asheville Regional Airport had seen only 1.16 inches of rain from Florence as of 4 p.m. Sunday, with most of that falling in late morning and early afternoon. On Monday, the forecast calls for only a 50 percent chance of rain, with patchy fog in the morning.
Biltmore Village preps for floodwaters
Businesspeople in Biltmore Village had filled sandbags and taken other steps ahead of Florence to minimize damage from any flooding.
It appeared that there would be only minor flooding in the low-lying business district near the entrance to Biltmore Estate. The National Weather Service was predicting that the Swannanoa River would reach 12 feet in the village overnight.
That's 2 feet above flood stage, but would not be high enough to cause major problems for most businesses in the village if the forecast holds true.
Previous forecasts had raised the possibility that things could be much worse.
"I have been stressing a lot for the past couple of days," said Richard Chen, owner of Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse.
Workers had moved some items to higher locations but there is not much else to be done, Chen said. The restaurant planned to open for dinner Sunday evening as usual.
Related coverage: Hurricane Florence: Biltmore Village prepares for onslaught
At the Southern Highland Craft Guild store on Lodge Street in the village, "We have sand bags ready to go" and would place them in strategic locations after the store closed to keep flood water out, said employee Amanda Horton.
Workers moved crafts around to try to get them out of reach of any flood waters that came inside the building, she said.
Shelter open in Buncombe
Buncombe County opened a shelter at Swannanoa First Baptist Church to accommodate evacuees from mobile homes in Black Mountain.
Only five people in Black Mountain had been evacuated Sunday afternoon, but, "We may have to do more evacuations later as the worst of the weather is still ahead of us," town police Chief Shawn Freeman said.
Flat Creek ran out of its banks in May in the same area where flooding occurred Sunday.
With the exception of the flooding in Black Mountain and some downed trees, emergency management staff reported Sunday afternoon that Florence hadn't caused any major problems in Buncombe County.
Director Jerry VeHaun said there was little activity Sunday, "thank goodness."
He said he was unaware of any major road closures or flooding, and didn't expect conditions to worsen.
Most Buncombe County residents saw no problems with their electricity.
The number of people without power in the county was as high as 16,000 Sunday, but that total had fallen to 1,672 Duke Power customers by shortly after 5 p.m.
There were 484 accounts in Henderson County without electricity but totals in several other counties in the region were typically below 100.
Fred McCormick of Black Mountain News contributed to this report.