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Riverfront Homeowners In Northwest Charlotte Flee Rising Waters

One of the areas hardest hit by flooding in Charlotte Sunday night was the Lake Drive/Riverside Drive neighborhood, on the Catawba River below Mountain Island Lake.  

For Kyle Van Cleave and his wife, the first sign of trouble came around 8 p.m.  Sunday night when they discovered their basement on Lake Drive was filled with water. The river rose quickly, and they had to be rescued.

"We left around 10:30, got taken out by boat," Van Cleave said. "In our house, it was about three or four feet on the main level, so including the bottom level about eight or nine feet high."

Just up the street, Donald McGuire got caught in the flooding Sunday night and walked his way out.

"I saw water coming up to my house, and all kinds of boats, canoes. And I seen decks going down the stream.  And I left out at 1:30 this morning. And water was up above my waist," McGuire said.

Now McGuire and Van Cleave are picking up the pieces.

Van Cleave and his wife bought their house only last fall. He said that he knew storms can affect the Charlotte area but that he didn't expect this.

So what are they going to do?

"I have no idea … rebuild?" he said.

For now, they're calling insurance companies and trying to borrow a kayak so they can salvage a few last things.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Emergency Management workers were knocking on doors to check on residents and alert them that power was being turned off.  Spokesman Tony Bateman said about 35 to 40 houses could be without power for several days.

McGuire, his wife and their dog plan to stay with friends until power returns. He said the main floor of his house escaped major damage. But the family next door lost everything. He was planning to take them to Walmart to get clothes and shoes.

"It's the least I can do," he said.

Duke Energy says all its dams along the Catawba are functioning normally.  With heavy rains upstream in western North Carolina, the company has been opening flood gates to "protect the integrity of the dams," said Michael Brissie, who oversees hydroelectric operations.

Authorities say the flood waters are bringing unpredictable currents, so they're warning boaters, including those with kayaks and canoes, to stay off the water until the flooding recedes.

Water also may be filled with debris. Brissie said he saw a video of a boat that went over the open dam at Mountain Island Lake around 6 a.m. Monday. He said it didn't cause any damage.

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.