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Two Dead, Many Still Missing In Haywood County As Flood Cleanup Continues

Devastation near the Cruso community center
Scott McLeod / Smoky Mountain News
Devastation near the Cruso community center

(1:00 p.m. Thursday)  Emergency officials have confirmed two deaths in Haywood County from Tuesday's flooding, while dozens are still unaccounted for as searches and cleanup goes on in earnest.

“The community of Cruso saw some of the worst destruction of Haywood County that I have seen in my life and way more than in 2004 (following Hurrican Ivan),” said EMS Director Travis Donaldson Thursday afternoon.

Homes have been carried for miles and miles according to Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher.

“We are always going to lean on that side of hope that we are going to find somebody that is alive,” said Christopher. He explained that search teams have cleared most of Lake Logan area and are moving from Cruso to Betel and down the Pigeon River.

At the Laurel Bank campground, a woman who answered the phone said nearby homes were washed away and that all of the campers in her campground are gone.  "I lost 4 people in the water in the flood. They are gone," she told Blue Ridge Public Radio.  She also called for funding as assistance as soon as possible: “If you can get us some government help in here we need it - bad."  There is a go-fund-me set up for the community of the campground. There have been over $4,000 donated in the 20 hours the fund has been active.

Both U.S. Senator Thom Tillis and Governor Roy Cooper will tour the Canton area Thursday with local officials.  The Pigeon River in Canton swelled by almost 17 feet in less than 10 hours Tuesday, going from just under 3 feet at 10:30 a.m. to over 19 feet by 8 p.m. as the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred made its way through the region.

Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers said Canton Alderman Dr. Ralph Hamlet had his house pushed off its foundation.  “This is a Haywood County community tragedy, but we are one family.” 

He quoted local Balsam Range’s popular song “grit and grace” to describe what is community is going through and called for a federal state of emergency so that the county can get the funds they need to rebuild.

Haywood County Commission Chair Kevin Easley shared that 500 families that have been displaced by the destruction and that 20- 30 bridges are damaged and broken in the region.

In neighboring Transylvania County, crews were able to locate one stranded camper, and do not believe any others are in the area of Daniel's Creek where they were searching late Wednesday afternoon.  No missing persons reports have been filed and authorities said drone surveillance showed no signs of any additional campers stranded. 

The U.S. Forest Service is still assessing all the damage from flooding in the Pisgah National Forest.  The Cradle of Forestry, two campgrounds, and many roads are closed.  N.C. 276 is open to the Pisgah Visitor Center, and the Forest Service expects it will open further in the coming days.  In a statement, District Ranger Dave Casey said, “We appreciate your patience as we work to assess the damage we’ve endured throughout the Forest. The passion and pride the public feels about the Pisgah has been clear in their enthusiastic response to help. At this time we ask everyone to stay patient and be cautious if and when choosing to enter the Forest.”

Copyright 2021 BPR News. To see more, visit BPR News.

BPR News Staff