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Jackson narrowly avoided catastrophic floods

The heaviest rainfall was concentrated along the Haywood-Transylvania and Jackson-Transylvania county lines.  The heaviest rainfall was concentrated along the Haywood-Transylvania and Jackson-Transylvania county lines. National Weather Service mpa

While the Cruso area undisputedly received the worst of the flooding in Western North Carolina, it did not receive the worst of the rainfall.

Over the 72-hour period from 8 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 15, to 8 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, Cruso received about 14 inches of rain. But multiple gauges on the Transylvania/Jackson County line recorded more than 20 inches in that same time period, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Trisha Palmer.

However, those areas didn’t see major flood damage, because the heavy rainfall was concentrated right along the Eastern Continental Divide. Instead of all flowing into a single watershed, some of it flowed into the Upper French Broad watershed headed toward Brevard while some flowed south toward Lake Toxaway and South Carolina.

“If it had fallen just a little bit further north or a little bit further south, it would have all fallen into one basin and been funneled down in one direction,” said Palmer. “It would have been an incredible flood wave. It was already incredible, but it would have been even more incredible.”

As it is, Jackson County saw only minor flood damage, said Emergency Management Director Todd Dillard.

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While Jackson County missed the magnitude of flood damage some Haywood County communities experienced, heavy rains caused massive erosion, as shown in this photo looking downstream from Schoolhouse Falls in Panthertown Valley. Friends of Panthertown photo

“We did have one home damaged up in the Canada community, and that residence has considerable damage to it, but she has family where she’s being taken care of,” Dillard said. “We had a few minor landslides. We had our normal flooding where we usually do out on Ashe Settlement Road (in Webster).”

Jackson County, especially in the northern end, has the additional buffer of the Duke Energy reservoir at Lake Glenville. The lake provides enough buffer so that, if rainfall is significant enough that the company must spill water from the dam, emergency services can be warned beforehand.

“We really fared very well compared to Haywood County,” said Dillard.

He spoke by phone Aug. 20 from the flooded area in Haywood, where he and two of his employees were assisting in the recovery effort. More than 200 people representing emergency services agencies from all over the state and beyond were on site. 

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