Heavy rainfall and flooding hit Chapel Hill, Carrboro

Flooding from heavy rains Sunday left local residents and businesses scrambling to recover. A flash flood warning remains in effect for Orange County through 9 p.m. Sunday evening.

Orange County spokeswoman Carla Banks said Chapel Hill and Carrboro were dealing with flooding and downed trees, but as of 6:30 p.m. Sunday, no injuries had been reported.

Areas where flooding was most severe included Camelot Village Condominiums in Chapel Hill, the Eastgate shopping center’s parking lot and Estes Drive, which as of 5:40 p.m. Sunday was closed to traffic.

After severe flooding affected the Rocky Brook Mobile Home Park in Carrboro, about 25 residents were evacuated to a temporary shelter at the Carrboro Century Center. That shelter has since been relocated to Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, where Banks said more than 50 people were sheltering Sunday evening.

Banks said the shelter will have staff on hand from the Red Cross and Orange County Health Department, as well as animal services officials to accommodate pets.

“We also are encouraging residents with special needs to go to that shelter,” Banks said.

Banks said the last time Chapel Hill experienced problematic flooding was during Tropical Storm Hannah in 2008. She said the total number of inches fallen Sunday has not yet been released, as two additional storms are still expected tonight.

UNC senior Wendy Lu said her ground-floor apartment in Chapel Hill’s Oaks Condominiums was badly flooded.

“I think it started raining around 3, and then I noticed that the water started coming into the apartment, and all of a sudden it starting coming really, really fast,” Lu said. “I tried to clean it up with towels and stuff, but then I realized it was coming too fast.

“It was like the Titanic.”

Lu said after realizing the water in her kitchen came up to her ankles, she grabbed her laptop, phone and journal before seeking shelter upstairs in her neighbors’ apartment.

“It was really scary actually, because you saw your belongings just floating in the water, literally,” she said.

Several areas of UNC’s campus were also affected, including the Student Recreation Center on South Road. Building operations supervisor and UNC senior Emma Ferriola-Bruckenstein said water came in the SRC’s front and side doors, flooding areas including the building’s weight floor.

“There was a buildup of about a foot at the front doors leaking in as well,” Ferriola-Bruckenstein said in a message. “We got everyone out before we had too much water coming in, and then closed up early.”

On Franklin Street, several businesses reported what they called unprecedented flooding. Jay Patel, general manager of The Franklin Hotel at 311 W. Franklin St., said the area outside his business is the lowest point on Franklin Street.

“The parking garage got flooded — it was the most heavy on our property and it actually flooded into our lobby area, and our bar area, and pretty much everywhere on the first floor,” Patel said.

He said he expected the greatest damage to have been done to cars in the parking deck, located beneath the hotel, and to some first-floor fixtures.

Patel said the incident might prompt him to work with Chapel Hill officials on reevaluating the drainage system on that part of the street.

“I’m probably going to try to find the right resouces in the town to see if we can collaborate with them to pinpoint the problem,” he said.

Across the road at 310 W. Franklin St., Mellow Mushroom employees were forced to close the restaurant after three to six inches of water flooded the space.

Casey Fox, one of the restaurant’s owners, said he didn’t expect normal business hours to resume until tomorrow.

“We’ve been doing clean-up, and several cars in the back parking lot got flooded, so they’re stranded,” Fox said.

Lu, who was just staring to clean up in her apartment, said neither she nor her neighbors had ever experienced such severe flooding in Chapel Hill.

“Apparently, they said that they’ve never seen anything like this before,” Lu said of her neighbors. “I’m just glad the rain has stopped.”

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