The Boomer and Ferguson communities received the most rainfall—and experienced some of the worst flooding—in Wilkes County this past weekend.
The N.C. Forest Service reported that a little over 15 inches of rain fell in Boomer, while 14.9 inches was the total reported at the Leatherwood development on Elk Creek-Darby Road in Ferguson. These totals are for Friday through Sunday, but the bulk of the rain fell between late Saturday afternoon and mid-morning Sunday.
Elk Creek, Beaver Creek and other streams in southwestern Wilkes reached their highest flood stages in recent memory, washing out about six private bridges and causing other damage to private and public roads.
Longtime residents elsewhere in western Wilkes said it was the worst flooding they could recall. The forest service recorded a little over 10 inches of rain from Friday through Sunday (8.32 inches on just Saturday and Sunday) on Rendezvous Mountain, which straddles the Lewis Fork Creek and Reddies River watersheds.
Rainfall measurements recorded at Leatherwood by Leatherwood resident Mark Laney included 2 ½ inches of rain in a 20-minute period Saturday night.
Leatherwood co-owner Abby Hanchey said a wedding planned there Saturday afternoon went on as scheduled despite the deluge and flooding. Hanchey said the heaviest rain at Leatherwood began about 4 p.m. Saturday and resulted in flooding that delayed wedding guests from reaching their rental cabins at Leatherwood or leaving the development until late that night.
Hanchey said there were mudslides and washouts on Leatherwoood’s roads, as well as large amounts of gravel washed away. Floodwaters entered the old Hendrix cabin near the Leatherwood entrance and another small residence but the structures weren’t damaged. She said substantial progress had been made on repairs and the development is fully open for business.
Elk Creek also flooded Elk Creek-Darby Road near the Gladys Fork Road intersection, at the long straightaway just north of the N.C. 268 intersection and at the Triplett Town Road bridge.
Capt. Erik Hamby of the Ferguson Fire Department, who works at Leatherwood, recounted assistance the Ferguson Fire Department provided a couple in their 20s and their young child from Fayetteville when their vehicle stalled out in floodwaters from Elk Creek on the straightaway on Elk Creek-Darby Road around 9:30 a.m. Sunday.
Ferguson firefighters found them on the roof of their vehicle on Elk Creek-Darby Road. Hamby said they were unsure of the depth of the water on the road, but were able to walk away from the vehicle after being shown it wasn’t more than about knee-deep.
A winch on a fire department brush truck was used to pull the vehicle to higher ground, but the vehicle wouldn’t start so the family was transported to the Ferguson Fire Station. They were fed and provided other assistance at the fire station while waiting a few hours for someone from Fayetteville to arrive and take them home.
Hamby said the family was headed toward N.C. 268 on their way home after spending the weekend in a Powder Horn Mountain rental cabin in the Triplett community of Watauga County when the vehicle stalled.
Ferguson Fire Chief Jeff Matherly said three or four private bridges were washed away in the Elk Creek Valley alone and there were several mudslides and numerous downed trees all over the Ferguson district. He said the largest mudslide was in the 1100 block of Champion Road.
Matherly said a washout around a culvert beneath Beaver Creek Road left a hollowed-out area under the asphalt from one side of the road to the other. This occurred in the vicinity of Walsh’s Fish Lake.
Although floodwaters threatened homes, Matherly said he wasn’t aware of any homes actually flooded.
Reports indicate about a dozen bridges and culverts on private roads and driveways were washed out in the Beaver, Elk, Stony Fork and Lewis Fork creek and Reddies River watersheds of western Wilkes this weekend, but the only residences flooded were three mobile homes along Mount Pleasant Road near the Cobblestone Lane intersection in the Champion Fire District.
Floodwaters from the South Prong of Lewis Fork Creek and a tributary reached the mobile homes on Mount Pleasant Road about 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The Champion Fire Department helped them evacuate and get to the Champion Fire Station Saturday night as floodwaters rose.
Numerous public roads were flooded and the N.C. Department of Transportation responded to over 20 mudslides and washouts on public roads, said Brian Hamby, DOT maintenance engineer for Wilkes. He said DOT maintenance personnel removed well over 20 trees from public roads. Fire departments also were busy removing trees and responding in other ways.
Wilkes Rescue Squad Chief Cole Wyatt said the squad was on standby to assist where needed.
Wilkes Emergency Management Coordinator Suzanne Hamby said Wilkes County must have over 20 homes or businesses damaged by floodwaters to be eligible for a state disaster designation. Hamby was still gathering damage reports on Wednesday.
She noted that public funds aren’t available for repairing private roads or private bridges.
Wilkes Cooperative Extension Director John Cothren said about 600 acres of corn in Wilkes were flooded, plus many miles of fencing were lost and severe soil erosion occurred. Damage to the corn alone was a roughly $600,000 loss.