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Wilson County tallied some of North Carolina’s highest rainfall totals Thursday as Tropical Storm Eta spun showers and thunderstorms across the mid-Atlantic region.
More than 9 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period, according to data from the National Weather Service’s Raleigh forecast office. Flash flooding made roads and streets impassable, with emergency crews closing and barricading some thoroughfares.
First responders performed more than 20 water rescues since Wednesday. Gordon Deno, Wilson County Emergency Management director, said crews rescued motorists who drove their cars into floodwaters, which is extremely dangerous.
“People are driving in high water and shouldn’t,” Deno said. He said most rescues were on the northwest side of the county and city. No injuries were reported by Thursday afternoon.
Doris Riggins was driving through water on the 200 block of Kenan Street when her car stalled around 10:30 a.m. A few minutes later, Wilson Fire/Rescue Services firefighters John Fatzaun and LaMarcus “Big L” Strickland pulled her to safety.
“I thought I was going to drown,” Riggins said. “I could have got out, but there was too much water. I was scared. The water was coming in my car. The firemen did a good job.”
Crossfit Wilson clients helped co-owner Pam Aycock move gym equipment to the building’s second floor Thursday morning due to substantial first-floor flooding.
“We have to put stuff up, anything that’s going to rust or get ruined and won’t float away,” said Aycock, who owns the Forest Hills Road business with her son, Austin Aycock. “This is a lot of help from a lot of people. They came to work out and now we’re raising things up so they won’t flood.”
“We’re getting a workout another way,” Ariel Fulghum said as she hoisted 20-pound weights to the second story.
Pam Aycock said floods have required the Crossfit gym to move its equipment several times before.
“But God is good and has gotten us through it,” she said.
Officials warned residents Thursday to take precautions and to never drive through water, which puts first responders in danger. Motorists should pay close attention to signs and barricades and never drive around them, Deno said — they’re there for a reason. Officials say most flooding deaths occur in vehicles.
“If you see standing water or water going across the road, turn around and do not drive through it,” Deno said.
Anna Jane Murray brought her 7-year-old son J.C. Murray to the Wiggins Mill Reservoir to see the water spilling from its banks as it streamed over the dam.
“I love waterways, so I think it’s interesting. We’re going to come back later to look at it again,” the boy said.
Rebecca Agner, the city of Wilson's communications and marketing director, said officials are asking the public to stay alert and allow more time if they must travel on Thursday. A map of current Wilson road closures is available on the city website. Click here to view.
Visit WilsonTimes.com for updates to this developing story.