Published 6:44 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Here we go again.

With more than 10 inches of rain in some portions of the Roanoke-Chowan area over the past three days, officials in Bertie and Hertford counties have declared a State of Emergency.

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at Bertie Middle School for those living in a flood zone or county residents who cannot make it back to their homes, as officials make preparations for the rising waters of the Cashie River affected residents.

The declaration in Bertie County was made in anticipation of the Cashie River in Windsor cresting at well above flood stage. Other flooding is expected in the county.

The rain is coming from a stalled weather system and the remnants of Tropical Storm Julia That rain is expected to continue into Thursday.

As of 4:15 pm Wednesday, the Cashie River was at 11.2 feet – well above the flood stage of 8.0 feet. Windsor Police officers were setting up barricades Wednesday evening.

The river is forecasted to continue to rise to 12.8 feet and crest around Friday before midnight, according to the National Weather Service (NWS)’s latest alert at 5 pm Wednesday. Moderate flooding is already occurring, and if the river rises above 13.0 feet, major flooding will begin. In late August of 2011 after Hurricane Irene, the Cashie crested at 12.1 feet.

A Flood Warning for the Cashie River in Bertie County was initially issued by the NWS Wednesday morning, and continued to be updated throughout the day with increasingly worse forecasts for the river level’s crest.

As of the time of this publication Wednesday evening, here are the latest road closings for Bertie County according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT):

* NC-42 west of Colerain in both directions, high severity

* NC-45 south of Colerain in both directions

* Wakelon Rd (SR-1001) near Windsor in both directions

* Quebec Rd (SR-1002) near Colerain in both directions

* Nowell Farm Rd (SR-1314) near Colerain in both directions

* Buncomb Rd (SR-1328 near Colerain in both directions

* US-17 north of Windsor in both directions, high severity

The Sans Souci Ferry is also closed due to high water.

The NCDOT advises that motorists not attempt to cross any flooded roads. It takes less than a foot of rushing water to rapidly carry away a vehicle. There are also multiple secondary routes in the county with high water due to heavy rains. Motorists are urged to drive with extreme caution, according to the NCDOT’s website.

Lexie Rudolph from the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management stated, “One of the most important tips is do not walk or drive through flood water, and try not to park your vehicle along streams or creeks that have the potential to rise and flood. Continue to listen to news and radio and know that flash flooding can continue to occur, so move to higher ground if possible. If you are in a flood zone and must leave your home, secure any items that may float away and move your important items to a higher floor if possible. Also, we recommend those in flood zones to turn off water, gas, power at the main switches, but only if it is safe to do so.”

Furthermore, late Wednesday, Lawrence Academy in Merry Hill announced that it would be closed on Thursday. It is unknown as of press time Wednesday evening whether or not Bertie County Schools would be open. It was announced on Wednesday that Bertie High School has postponed its home football game on Friday night. That game (vs. Northeastern) has been moved to 7 p.m. on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Ahoskie Creek is inching closer to overflowing its banks.

“The Ahoskie Creek was very close to giving us some issues on Wednesday, and it’s going to get worse,” said Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith. “All that water has to travel downstream from around the Rich Square area.”

As of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Smith said Hertford County was under a State of Emergency. That proclamation does not carry a curfew nor will it impact the sale of alcohol.

“We put it in place as it helps the county make applications at the state level for assistance should the flooding became a major problem,” Smith said.

Smith added that he didn’t feel any homes would be threatened due to the floodwaters.

“I’m more concerned about those traveling on our roads,” Smith said. “If you do not have to travel, I would suggest staying at home until this flooding subsides.”

Also on Wednesday, Smith contacted state officials to attempt to gain the services of a swift water rescue team.

“I’d rather have them here, in place in Hertford County, and wind up not needing them rather than them having to travel a great distance to get here,” Smith stressed.

Smith also advised other areas that typically flood during heavy or prolonged rainfall events will include Bear Swamp and the Chickipen Creek along NC 561 (Harrellsville Highway) and Tunis along the Chowan River.

Smith advised local residents to stay on top of the ever-changing weather conditions.

“Things seem to change minute-by-minute,” he said. “Please pay close attention to the weather over the next 12-to-24 hours. Hopefully we’ll be out of the woods by sometime on Friday.”

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said his officers and town staff will “stay on top of things” as this rainfall continues. He said he was particularly concerned about the Ahoskie Creek bridge on Jernigan Swamp Road.

“If we get another quick, heavy downpour, plus with all this other water coming downstream, Jernigan Swamp Road may close,” Fitzhugh stated. “That will pose a bigger problem since Jernigan Swamp Road is now being used as a detour to get around the bridge construction on NC 42.”

U.S. 17 is closed in both directions north of Windsor until at least Thursday morning, and several other primary routes experienced closures on Wednesday, including NC 42 and NC 45 near Colerain in Bertie County. Additionally, secondary roads throughout Bertie and Hertford counties were closed due to high water or washouts.

On Wednesday, state transportation crews began placing barricades and traffic cones where roads or lanes are closed. They advised the following for motorists:

If you have to travel, do not drive through standing water, no matter what type of vehicle you drive, and do not cross barricades. Travel information is available in the Travel section of NCDOT.gov or by following NCDOT on Twitter. Due to rapidly changing conditions, this is not a comprehensive list of affected roads.

If you see a flooded roadway ahead, turn around and take an alternate route to your destination. If there is no alternate route, head to higher ground and wait for the water to subside. Do not attempt to cross over a flooded road even if it seems shallow. Just one foot of water can float many vehicles, while two feet of rushing water can carry away vehicles, including SUVs and pick-ups.

Know what to do if your car begins to hydroplane. Hydroplaning occurs when your tires glide across the surface of the water on the road. If your car starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, but do not stomp on the brakes. Instead, apply the brakes in a steady, slightly firm manner, and steer in the direction of the skid. If you have a manual transmission, push in the clutch and let the car slow down on its own. If you have an automatic transmission, hold the steering wheel steady and lightly apply the brakes. For cars that have antilock brakes, you should apply more pressure to the brakes, but avoid pumping them.

Allow more travel time, reduce your speed and drive defensively. Motorists should drive at least five to 10 miles per hour slower on wet pavement and allow at least twice the normal following distance between cars to provide ample room for stopping. Be ready for a sudden stop. And remember that the driver behind you is dealing with the same conditions so signal for turns ahead of time and brake early as you near a stop. Be patient and do not pass lines of traffic.

After this weather system passes, the forecast calls for sunshine and highs in the 80’s on Saturday and Sunday.