Aug. 18—At a noon press conference, Haywood County officials offered an update on the flooding emergency created after Tropical Storm Fred brought heavy rains to the area.
Emergency Services Director Travis Donaldson said the Pigeon River peaked at 19.6 feet. It has since receded, allowing responders to begin the initial damage assessment, a process that is still underway, along with search and rescue operations in the Lake Logan and Cruso areas.
Donaldson added that while some folks have been located, there are still over 30 people unaccounted for.
"There are welfare checks in progress," he said.
Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher expressed appreciation for the emergency workers who have been responding to calls related to flooding since 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Christopher, who said water levels rose faster than he'd ever seen in the county, also thanked teams who have come in from other counties as far away as New Hanover to offer assistance.
"They got here on the ground yesterday afternoon when it was still raining and the water was still rising," he said, adding that there have been no injuries to any responders.
In the hours after the flooding, videos have been seen all over social media of buildings and vehicles being carried off in flood waters.
"We have homes that are completely destroyed and off their foundations," Christopher said. "Mobile homes that were moved and mobile home parks that I would call completely destroyed."
Christopher said searches will continue until every community member is located or accounted for. But in the meantime, he had a stark warning.
"Please do not drive through standing water, and please stay out of the affected communities," he said. "We need people to stay away so our rescuers, our searchers, our department of transportation, our law enforcement and fire departments can be able to continue to move about in the communities as they need to."
Also at the press briefing was Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who said he and his team have been in Haywood and Transylvania counties assessing the damage. He said he anticipates a state of emergency being declared, which would allow for federal aid. He also had a message for residents.
"The people of Haywood County are known for their rugged individualism," he said. "They're known for their strength, and I would ask them to call on that now and to heed the guidance of local officials."