07/31/05 — Torrential rain floods Mount Olive streets

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Torrential rain floods Mount Olive streets

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on July 31, 2005 2:05 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive business owners and residents were cleaning up Saturday after a torrential downpour on Friday night dumped an estimated four-to-six inches of rain in less than two hours on the city.

There were no reports of serious injuries or power outages and only a few fallen tree limbs in Mount Olive. Other parts of northern and eastern Wayne County had fallen tree limbs and flooded roadways.

The rain that started at about 6:15 p.m. was so heavy in a short time that the water lapped across North Breazeale Avenue, the city's major north-south street, and forced police to close many streets to vehicle traffic.

"It was bad," Police Chief Emmett Ballree said Saturday. "I haven't seen rain like that since Hurricane Floyd" in 1999. "I don't know what the official count was, but some people had over four inches in their rain gauges."

He said he could not name any streets in Mount Olive that were not covered in deep water.

The Piggly Wiggly supermarket at 615 N. Breazeale Ave. was closed so that employees and customers could get their vehicles from the flooded parking lot. Ballree said one or two people were stranded and water rose to the bottom of the driver's side window on some cars.

Then the chief added, "It's unbelievable how silly some people are. A few tried to drive in there" through the water.

Neighboring stores in the same strip center and across the street also were closed early, the chief said. All but a few Hispanic stores had reopened by Saturday morning.

The water receded just as quickly at it came. By 11 p.m. Friday, all streets, except South Center, were reopened, Ballree said. South Center was reopened Saturday.

"There was no major damage," Ballree said. "A few businesses had water, but they got their property above the water line."

A sinkhole, about the size of dining room table, also was formed on one road, the chief said. The town will have to repair the road. A driveway on Crest Drive also was washed away.

Mount Police Officer Jason Holliday said one car was totaled from the rain. One police car also had water damage.

Ballree said he was picking up pancake suppers from a church, just outside of town, to take home, when a light rain started. As he returned to town, he said that it "looked like nighttime."

"It seems like a cloud got over Mount Olive and it just stopped here for an hour and a half," the chief said.

He said he held off eating supper and found many streets flooded. Most of the rain came in the first hour, but it continued for another 30 minutes, he said.

"There was no way in the world the town can plan for something like that," Ballree said. "There was no where for the water to go, after we got two inches Thursday."