11/17/06 — Water logged -- heavy rains caused standing water, flooding in county

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Water logged -- heavy rains caused standing water, flooding in county

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on November 17, 2006 1:46 PM

Despite the severe storms that caused two tornado warnings in Wayne and Duplin counties Wednesday morning, there were no confirmed sightings or touchdowns -- not what National Weather Service meteorologists thought they would hear.

"We've had no reports, which is surprising given that the same storm that produced the tornado in Columbus County moved through Wayne and Duplin where the signature rotation (on Doppler radar) actually became much more impressive," meteorologist Mike Strickler from the National Weather Service's Raleigh office said late Thursday afternoon.

The first line of storms came through about 8 a.m. Thursday, producing winds of 135-miles-per-hour at 3,000 feet. Had those come down in elevation, Strickler said, there would have been much more damage.

The second line of storms moved through the two counties around 11 a.m., producing reports of a possible tornado about five miles southeast of Mount Olive.

National Weather Service meteorologists also said that while they're not ruling out the possibility that someone might have seen a funnel cloud, there was never any confirmation.

"It was just Doppler indicated," Strickler said. "The Doppler indicated there was a thunderstorm showing a very, very significant rotation. There was a very, very strong signature on the radar."

Neither Wayne nor Duplin reported any significant damage -- just a few minor traffic accidents and a scattering of downed power lines and trees.

"We had no reported 911 calls that had anything to do with storm damage," Duplin Emergency Services director Craig Forlines said.

The city of Goldsboro and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base also escaped with minimal damage.

Seymour Chief of Public Affairs Capt. Tana Stevenson said the base runway tower was evacuated and base personnel were moved to the first floor of their respective buildings twice Wednesday morning until they received the "all clear," but that the F-15E Strike Eagles fighter jets were not moved.

City residents, however, did have to deal with high water.

City Manager Joe Huffman said residents in the Maplewood and Teakwood neighborhoods had to deal with standing water that resulted from clogged and backed up drains. Water turned hundreds of yards into small ponds and forced drivers to negotiate standing water.

"We actually had some people helping stranded drivers out there," he said. "The fire department gave them a hand."

Fallen leaves led to backed up drains and worsened the flooding in some neighborhoods.

"It's just that time of year. That debris is going to clog your drains," Huffman said.

Bill Price agreed with Huffman. He spent much of Thursday afternoon in his front yard on Lisa Lane scraping pine needles from the drain outside his home -- shoes off, pants rolled up to the knees.

"Those pine needles, they hang right in there," he said. "That's why I brought my pitchfork."

Mount Olive officials reported no damage and said streets that were temporarily under water were soon cleared. Public Works supervisor Jammie Royall said today that the heavy rain caused an overflow at the town's wastewater treatment plant. Officials were examining the extent of the overflow early today.

Many low-lying areas across Wayne and Duplin remained flooded today.

According to National Weather Service reports, Wayne County received three to five inches of rain, mostly in the eastern part of the county, as both storm systems followed very similar tracks.

"It was, for the most part, just east of Goldsboro. It came up between Mount Olive and Seven Springs and continued just east of Goldsboro up past Eureka," Strickler said. "Wayne received the most rainfall of anywhere in central North Carolina."

The northwest corner of Duplin County also was hard hit, receiving two to four inches of rain. The rest of the county only got an inch or two, authorities said.

"There was some localized flooding throughout the county in the low-lying areas," Forlines said.

By late afternoon Thursday, some of the water had begun to recede.

The water will eventually end up in the Neuse River and the National Weather Service is predicting that the river will approach flood level by Sunday and remain at that level for several days. The river level was at 14.5 feet early today and was expected to reach 17.8 feet by Sunday. Its flood level is 18 feet.

Throughout it all, the only significant injury reported was at Dillard Middle School in Goldsboro -- and it was not directly related to the storm.

Ken Derksen, public information officer with Wayne County Public Schools, said an eighth-grade student went to get a book in a classroom when he saw a window was partially open and decided to close it.

"He shut the window, but put too much pressure on the glass and his arm went through the window," Derksen said.

The student's arm received serious cuts, requiring him to be taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital and then transported to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville. He is reportedly in fair condition at Pitt.

It was the only incident reported in either the Wayne or Duplin county school systems, both of which spent the majority of the day operating under a tornado drill. Students in mobile classrooms were brought into the main buildings. And all afternoon activities were canceled.

"Everything went very smoothly. Everybody followed the plan," Duplin associate school superintendent Randall Shaver said.