A pipeline of tropical moisture fed in part by Hurricane Joaquin brought hours of heavy rainfall to the Charlotte region overnight, downing trees, causing scattered flooding and knocking out power to thousands of customers.
Emergency management officials rescued more than a dozen people from flooding in Myrtle Beach, and authorities in Charleston closed off parts of the city to tourists because of heavy rain.
The rain, falling heavily at times, was continuing across much of the area at daybreak Saturday, although meteorologists said the pipeline – which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean across Charleston and central South Carolina into western North Carolina – was nudging slowly westward.
By 9 a.m., the rain had tapered off to showers from Charlotte eastward.
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"Eventually, we expect the area of heavy rain to pivot southward into South Carolina," said Doug Outlaw, of the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C. "That area will be just south of Charlotte."
The Weather Service continues to warn that dangerous flooding is expected later Saturday in a corridor from the South Carolina coast, eastward across Florence, Columbia, Greenville-Spartanburg and Athens, Ga.
In the Charlotte area, intermittent rain is expected to continue through Sunday. Another growing problem Saturday will be winds. The National Weather Service says steady winds of 15 to 20 mph, gusting at times to 35 or 40 mph, are expected to develop during the day and continue into Sunday.
Harry Gerapetritis, of the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C., said there have been scattered reports of downed trees. "This should worsen," Gerapetritis said.
Authorities said there were several reports of trees falling on houses in Mecklenburg County overnight.
While rain tapers off for Charlotte and points east, several hours of heavy precipitation is expected throughout the day in the foothills and mountains, where emergency management officials fear landslides and life-threatening flash flooding could develop.
Advisories for urban flooding and small stream flooding are in effect until late Saturday morning for Mecklenburg, Union, Anson, Stanly, Montgomery, Richmond, Cabarrus, Rowan and Iredell counties.
Most of Mecklenburg County has received 3 inches of rain in the past 24 hours. Totals were heavier to the east, which was caught in the tropical pipeline for several additional hours. South Carolina emergency management authorities said about 6 inches has fallen in Chesterfield County, and there are widespread reports of 4 to 5 inches of rain in Stanly, Anson and Montgomery counties.
At 9 a.m., Duke Energy was reporting more than 7,000 power outages in Mecklenburg County. Another 1,500 outages were noted in Rowan County. Other area counties had much smaller power outage numbers.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police report minor flooding and downed trees blocking roads in several locations, although most main roads were reported open. The biggest problem was a downed tree reported at South Wendover and Sharon roads in southeast Charlotte.
The heavy rain is being caused by a combination of factors – an upper level low pressure system parked over the Florida Panhandle, high pressure over New England bringing a flow of moist air off the Atlantic, and a surge of tropical moisture from Joaquin, which is hundreds of miles offshore.
HEAVY RAIN, FLOODING
The National Weather Service said Goose Creek near Fairview in northern Union County is flooding, and roads in the area are under water. Cabarrus County authorities reported flood-prone Stallings Road near Harrisburg also was flooded and closed.
Statesville Road west of the town of Cleveland in Rowan County also was closed by flooding, authorities there said.
Motorists told The Observer about numerous flooded roads at daybreak Saturday in southeast and south Charlotte. Most of that flooding was subsiding by mid-morning.
Authorities said the heavy rain and gusty winds will continue to cause trees to come down. Early Saturday morning, downed trees were reported on Tippah Drive and Country Club Drive in the Plaza Midwood area, and at Sharon and Wendover roads in southeast Charlotte.
Two people escaped injury in northwest Mecklenburg County overnight, when a tree fell on a house on Long Grass Court near Auten Road. A tree also fell on a house on Rodey Avenue in north Charlotte, briefly trapping two people. They were not hurt, authorities said.
Chester County authorities reported several downed trees north of Fort Lawn.
Police responded to several multi-vehicle wrecks late Friday and early Saturday, including at least three on Interstate 485 in south Charlotte. A truck jackknifed about 7 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 85 in Gaston County, shutting down the northbound lanes.
There were widespread reports of 6 to 10 inches of rain falling in Horry County. Authorities there said many roads were closed by flooding. About a dozen people were rescued from flooded homes in Myrtle Beach, and about 50 houses were evacuated in the fishing village of Calabash, along the North Carolina-South Carolina border.
The Charleston police announced at 6 a.m. that vehicle traffic was not being permitted in the lower part of the city. Numerous roads were flooded in the city, where between 6 and 8 inches of rain has fallen since Friday afternoon.