Orange County declares a State of Emergency

Jul. 02, 2013 @ 06:55 PM

Orange County declared a State of Emergency Tuesday evening in the wake of the flooding in Chapel Hill and Carrboro that drove some residents from their homes.

Sunday,  5.13 inches of rain caused flooding in downtown Chapel Hill on West Franklin Street; along South Estes Drive, including Camelot Village and the University Mall parking lot; at Eastgate Shopping Center; at the Booker Creek Apartments off Erwin Road and the Rocky Brook Mobile Home Park in southern Carrboro.

Teams of building inspectors, fire marshals and other emergency officials from Chapel Hill and Carrboro have been inspecting the apartments at Camelot Village, Booker Creek and mobile homes at Rocky Brook. They have and condemned more than 100 apartments in Chapel Hill and 19 mobile homes at Rocky Brook, said Capt. Darshan Patel with Orange County Emergency Services.

That doesn’t mean the residents won’t ever be able to return to their homes, but it does mean significant work will have to be done at those residences before they can, Patel said.

Many residents are staying with friends or have found other places to live, but 30 individuals were still staying Tuesday evening at an emergency shelter at Smith Middle School on Seawell School Road, Patel said. The shelter remains open to others who may need a place to stay as a result of the flooding.

Declaring a State of Emergency will give the county the opportunity to look for funding to help residents find new homes or get back to their old ones, Patel said. It will also provide opportunities for funding to find permanent solutions for recurring flooding problems in certain areas of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

The corridor along South Estes Drive between University Mall and the Camelot Village apartments has flooded many times, causing damage especially to the low-lying apartments in Camelot Village.

On Sunday evening, the water rose so quickly people were caught unaware, trapping them in their apartments and flooding vehicles parked at University Mall. In Chapel Hill, damage assessment teams continued their efforts Tuesday by checking the Village Green Condominiums, the Brookwood Condominiums, Colonial Arms Apartments and Airport Gardens. None of those locations was condemned.

Orange County has coordinated its response with the Red Cross to open the shelter at Smith Middle School and has contacted the Red Cross, Baptist Men and Salvation Army to help support displaced residents.

The county assisted in sheltering pets for displaced residents and assisted damage assessment teams with displaced animals.

Social workers worked with staff at the shelter and coordinated housing and personal needs for the displaced residents.

The Orange County Health Department has provided nurses for the shelters and been working on informing the public on staying safe during cleanup. It has also been working with restaurants and pool owners to make sure they are safe and can reopen as soon as possible.

The National Weather Service at Raleigh-Durham Airport predicted more rain Tuesday night. Wednesday, the service predicts scattered showers in the morning with thunderstorms with the possibility of heavy rains in the afternoon and evening.

Thursday is expected to be partly sunny with only 20 percent chance of afternoon showers for the Fourth of July. The chance of rain increases to 30 percent Friday.

Authorities warn people not to drive through standing or moving water or walk through moving water.

If anyone wants to help, the Red Cross is accepting volunteers. Monetary donations to assist with relocation and replacement of household items can be sent to the O.C. Department of Social Services at 113 Mayo St., Hillsborough, N.C. 27278.

Household items and good clothing can be dropped off at the PTA Thrift Store at 89 S. Elliot Road in Chapel Hill or at the OCIM Thrift Shop at 300 Millstone Drive in Hillsborough. Both shops have agreed to allow displaced families to shop for clothes and household items for free.

Residents in need of assistance because of flooding are urged to call American Red Cross at 919-489-6541(Durham) or Orange County Social Services at 919-245-2800.