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Danny just won’t give up: Flooding prompts evacuations in N.C., Georgia

July 23, 1997

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ A sudden storm spawned by remnants of Hurricane Danny dumped up to 10 inches of rain on south-central North Carolina and washed out a railroad bridge today, causing five cars to plunge into a creek.

The train crew was unharmed. But a 5-year-old girl who had been playing in the floodwaters in a Charlotte neighborhood was unaccounted for and a search was under way, authorities said. Her four companions were found safe.

The storm, which dumped up to 8 inches in Charlotte overnight and up to 10 inches elsewhere, forced evacuation of dozens of Charlotte homes and two apartment buildings.

Emergency workers used boats to rescue 22 people from homes in a small residential area along Sugar Creek overnight, said Capt. Tim Rogers of the city’s fire department.

``Everyone in these homes was in peril at one point,″ he said. ``The water started to come up real fast, but fortunately we were ahead of the game.″

The CSX railroad train went into Little Sugar Creek late this morning after the trestle gave way.

The crew evacuated before the bridge collapsed and five cars went into the creek, spilling an estimated 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel, officials said. A nearby public housing project was evacuated because of the potential threat posed by the spilled fuel, authorities said.

The slow-moving Danny first hit land late Thursday in Louisiana and caused widespread flooding as it crossed into southern Mississippi and Alabama. Rainfall totals topped 30 inches in some areas _ as much rainfall in a few days as the area normally gets in months.

Damage in Alabama’s Mobile and Baldwin counties alone were expected to hit $60 million and $80 million, not counting crop losses.

As the storm slowly moved eastward, up to 6 inches of rain fell this morning in parts of northern Georgia, where flash flood warnings were posted.

Twelve residents were evacuated from an apartment building in Canton, northwest of Atlanta, and a roof collapsed at an envelope plant in Chamblee, north of Atlanta, but elsewhere most of the damage reported was minor.

The rain that inundated the Charlotte area was technically not part of Danny, but was caused by tropical moisture stirred up by Danny that came into contact with cooler air, forecasters said.

More than 4,500 homes and businesses in the Charlotte area had no electricity before daybreak. Nonessential city employees were told to stay home today, the city’s year-round schools were closed for the day, and two schools were being used as shelters.

Ansley Stephens and her two roommates decided to leave their home before 5 a.m., although she said they did not feel they were in danger.

``When you live in a flood plain, you have to have a sense of humor,″ Ms. Stephens said.

There were no reports of injuries, but rescue teams were trying to free motorists from several vehicles reported flooded up to the windows.

``It’s all over the place,″ said city spokeswoman Julie Hill.

The evacuated residences included two apartment complexes, she said. At least two primary thoroughfares were blocked by floods.

In Moore County, east of Charlotte, several cars were flooded out on bridges, said George Gullickson, a shift supervisor at the county’s emergency management office.

``We have at least one report of a guy having to swim out of his car,″ he said. ``He had to roll down his window and swim to a bank. When he got to the bank, his car was completely submerged.″