Flash flood sirens added to dangerous swim area - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Flash flood sirens added to dangerous swim area

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CALDWELL COUNTY, NC (WBTV ) -

Emergency managers in Caldwell County have added flash flood alert sirens to an area that had two drowning deaths this year.

The five sirens are currently being installed along an eight mile stretch of Wilson's Creek.  The first siren is in place at Brown Mountain Beach Campground. Additional sirens are being placed approximately two to three miles apart up the Brown Mountain Beach Road with the furthest north siren placed at Edgemont Baptist Church off of Highway 90. The sirens are placed to accommodate the geographical terrain with the sound covering the entire stretch of the Wilson's Creek gorge area.

Official said the sirens will only be set off in the event of a Flash Flood Warning or a Tornado Warning. They will not be set off for a "Watch" weather condition of any kind or fires. Emergency managers said they will be controlled by a series of tone signals at Caldwell County 911 Telecommunications. There will also be a once a month 10-second siren blast for testing purposes only.

"Flash Flooding can happen in minutes along Wilson's Creek because the entire run off from the mountains funnels straight down that gorge," explains Robbie Wilkie, Caldwell County Emergency Services Director. "Even if it is not raining at Wilson's Creek, if the mountains north of that area have heavy rain, it will flood. The elevation drop from Grandfather Mountain to Brown Mountain Beach is 5100 feet in less than 15 miles. This can cause water levels to increase from one foot to eight to ten feet in a matter of seconds. These sirens are intended to warn not only residents but the thousands of tourists that frequent the area. The goal is to save lives."

Along with the sirens, a series of signs is being mounted throughout the area.

Mileage signs are being placed in half-mile intervals beginning at the intersection of Adiko Road and Brown Mountain Beach Road and continuing up Brown Mountain Beach Road to where it intersects with Highway 90 at Betsy's Store in Edgemont.

Location signs will be placed at the areas known as "Lady on the Rock" and "Bathtubs" on Wilson's Creek.

Siren and Flood Warning Hazard signs are being placed on the siren poles themselves as well as throughout the area.

The signs are to educate tourists and help them accurately report their location and route emergency workers to where they are during an emergency.

County leads said the sirens and signs are being paid for with a $119,700.00 grant from the North Carolina Emergency Management Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

According to County leaders, the Wilson's Creek area has experienced flash flooding in 13 of the last 29 years. Seven drowning fatalities have occurred since 1988. This year alone, Wilson's Creek has experienced up to 10 flash flood warnings.

Tourists traveling the Wilson's Creek area are numbered at approximately 50,000 a year. 

A public meeting is being held to give residents in the Collettsville, Wilson's Creek and Edgemont areas of Caldwell County information about the five, flood warning sirens that are being installed in the area. The meeting will be held Thursday, August 22, at 6 p.m. at the Collettsville Fire Department on Adiko Road in Collettsville. The siren system is expected to be functioning sometime in September.

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