Flooding throws North Carolina city into chaos

Firefighters have rescued stranded drivers and evacuated some downtown neighbourhoods as heavy rain flooded streets and roads in Charlotte, N.C.
The streets of Charlotte, N.C., flooded on Friday due to 150 mm of rainfall in just a few hours. Here, Bill Edwards makes his way through a parking lot to clear debris from a clogged drain. (John D. Simmons/Associated Press)

Firefighters have rescued stranded drivers and evacuated some downtown neighbourhoods as heavy rain flooded streets and roads in Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte fire department spokesman Capt. Rob Brisley said Friday that rescuers helped dozens of motorists stranded in cars because of high water. Officials also evacuated people from two neighbourhoods that included apartment complexes and hotels when creeks spilled over their banks.

A woman drowned while running from Charlotte police, who were investigating a report of shoplifting. Gracie Nell Johnson, 43, was found in a swollen stream Friday afternoon. Another woman who ran from police with Johnson after a store called in a report of suspicious activity is still missing.

The flash flooding was triggered by heavy showers and thunderstorms, and as much as 150 millimetres of rain fell in just six hours in some areas.

Brisley said many of the rescues were necessary because motorists were making poor decisions like trying to drive through high water on city streets instead of turning around. 

In one area of the city, local media reported, cars were flooded with muddy water up to their roofs and would have floated away if they hadn't run up against a chain-link fence.