Death Toll Rises in North Carolina Flooding Fueled By Eta

Published in 13 November, 2020

At a Glance

  • At least seven people are dead.

  • Dozens were rescued.

  • Moisture from Eta added to the rainfall.

The death toll continued to rise Thursday evening in North Carolina as torrential rainfall caused flooding that inundated homes and businesses, washed out roads and bridges and forced dozens of rescues and evacuations.

At least seven deaths were blamed on the weather, including three people who were caught up in floodwaters at a campground.

Officials in Alexander County, North Carolina, announced that a third body had been found at the Hiddenite Family Campground, which was inundated by floodwaters earlier in the day. Two people were still unaccounted for.

More than 7 inches of rain fell in the area, according to the National Weather Service.

A news release from the county said the search would be suspended for the night but resume at 8 a.m. Friday.

(MORE: Tropical Storm Eta Floods Florida Homes; 1 Person Electrocuted)

Crews saved 31 people when the South Yadkin River flooded the campground, about 60 miles northwest of Charlotte, the Mooresville Fire chief told WBTV.

Doug Gillespie, Alexander County director of public services, told The Associated Press that some of those rescued were hanging from their campers. Three people were taken to the hospital for treatment.

“It was a massive amount of water. Now, there’s a massive amount of debris,” Gillespie said.

The body of one of the victims was found inside a camper, Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman said at a briefing Thursday afternoon. Rescuers later reported finding the bodies of two other victims.

Bowman said another person in the county died in the storm when a car ran off the road into floodwaters. Overall in Alexander County, 50 roads were damaged and four bridges washed away.

In Wake County, an 11-year-old child drowned after going missing near a creek in Rolesville, about 16 miles northeast of Raleigh, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Emergency personnel in Wake County were still responding to rescue calls Thursday evening.

Trooper C.B. Saunders of the North Carolina Highway Patrol said two people died in a crash on Wilkesboro Highway outside of Statesville Thursday morning, the Statesville Record & Landmark reported. The Highway Patrol said the pickup was going too fast “for the wet conditions of the roadway and hydroplaned,” according to the Charlotte Observer.

In Charlotte, flooding forced a school to evacuate near David Taylor Drive, according to the city’s Fire Department. More than 140 people were rescued. No injuries were reported.

Video tweeted by the Fire Department showed cars in the school’s parking lot submerged up to their windows. Students and faculty were being sheltered under tents set up nearby, WBTV reported.

Neighboring Catawba County declared a state of emergency, County Commission Chairman Randy Isenhower said, “due to excessive rain causing flooding, power outages, road closures and hazardous conditions.”

Dozens of schools delayed the start of classes or shifted to online only classes because of the flooding. Schools in the eastern part of the state closed early after the rains reached them.

A number of roads were blocked by high water or debris in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, WFMY reported.

Trees were down across several streets in Winston-Salem, according to WXII, which also reported that a retaining wall had collapse on Meadowlark Drive.

The Winston-Salem Fire Department evacuated 38 people from the Colonial Estates apartments when floodwater rose around the building, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. Firefighters also used inflatable boats to move people from the Creekwood Apartments.

Across the state, more than 16,400 homes and businesses lost electricity, according to poweroutage.us.

The weather was blamed for multiple car crashes in Raleigh, where Walnut Creek also overflowed, flooding neighborhood streets, WRAL reported.

In Wilson County, east of Raleigh, first responders have conducted at least 20 water rescues since Wednesday, Gordon Deno, the county’s emergency management director, told the Wilson Times. Deno said no injuries were reported.

A four-mile stretch of southbound Interstate 95 was closed near U.S. 264 in Wilson, according to the state Department of Transportation.

U.S. 301 was closed in both directions near W. Tarboro Road in Nash County.

Across the state line in South Carolina, several people had to be rescued from flooded homes in York County.


From 9 a.m Wednesday to 9 a.m. Thursday, more than 8 inches of rain fell in some locations, the National Weather Service reported, including 8.78 inches in Fayetteville in Cumberland County and 8.6 inches in Rocky Mount in Nash County. In Wilson County, 7.66 inches fell in Wilson.

Tropical moisture from Eta has surged northward at the same time a cold front is moving through the Eastern states, according to weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce. This collision has resulted in a widespread area of rainfall across the East since Wednesday. Some of the most intense rainfall and worst flooding has occurred from Virginia into North Carolina, especially Thursday morning.

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