In a noon press conference, Haywood County officials provided an update on the flood emergency created after Tropical Storm Fred brought heavy rains to the area.
Emergency services director Travis Donaldson said the Pigeon River peaked at 19.6 feet. It has since backed down, allowing responders to begin the initial damage assessment, a process that is still ongoing, as well as search and rescue operations in the Logan and Cruso Lake areas.
Donaldson added that although some people have been located, there are still more than 30 people missing.
“There are ongoing welfare checks,” he said.
Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher expressed gratitude to rescuers who have responded to flood-related calls since 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Christopher, who said water levels had risen faster than he had ever seen in the county, also thanked teams from other counties as far as New Hanover for offering to help.
“They arrived on the ground yesterday afternoon while it was still raining and the water was still rising,” he said, adding that there were no injuries among the responders.
In the hours following the flooding, videos were seen on social media of buildings and vehicles washed away in the flood waters.
“We have houses that are completely destroyed and out of their foundations,” Christopher said. “The mobile homes that have been moved and the mobile home parks that I would call completely destroyed. “
Christopher said the search will continue until every member of the community is located or identified. But in the meantime, he received a stern warning.
“Please don’t drive in stagnant water and stay out of affected communities,” he said. “We need people to stay away so that our rescuers, our researchers, our transport service, our law enforcement and our firefighters can continue to move around the communities as needed.”
Representative Madison Cawthorn also attended the press conference, which said he and his team were in Haywood and Transylvania counties to assess the damage. He said he planned to declare a state of emergency, which would allow federal assistance. He also had a message for the residents.
“The people of Haywood County are known for their robust individualism,” he said. “They are known for their strength, and I would ask them to call on that now and heed the advice of local authorities.”