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Eta’s cloudbursts set rainfall record: Airport tallies nearly 10 inches in 2 days

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The Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport reported record rainfall totals as Tropical Storm Eta’s outer bands deluged Nash and Wilson counties. 

National Weather Service meteorologist Nick Petro said the airport’s observation point tallied 9.86 inches of rain Wednesday and Thursday. 

The two-day figure exceeds any individual rainfall total in the last 20 years. That doesn’t include Hurricane Floyd, which made landfall in September 1999. 

Eta — named for the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet due to the Atlantic hurricane season’s high number of named storms — struck Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Nov. 3, hit Cuba as a tropical storm on Nov. 8 and made landfall in south Florida the next day. Rain bands from the deteriorating cyclone swept the Mid-Atlantic as the storm system drifted offshore. 

Petro said the RWI airport in southern Nash County shattered its one-day rainfall record on Wednesday with 6.02 inches. That beat the observation point’s second-highest total, 4.39 inches, recorded on Aug. 26, 2002. 

FATALITIES, STATE OF EMERGENCY

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Friday after a cold front interacting with moisture from Tropical Storm Eta caused widespread heavy rainfall across the state. 

“While many rivers across western and central North Carolina will crest today or are currently receding, rivers across eastern North Carolina will continue to rise through the weekend,” according to a news release from the governor’s office. 

“This storm has already claimed several lives, and everyone should exercise caution by avoiding flooded roads and areas along swollen creeks and rivers,” Cooper said in the release. “Our prayers go out to the families and friends of those who were injured or killed by these devastating floods.”

State officials say three people were killed at a flooded campground in Hiddenite. A state search and rescue task forced arrived in Alexander County on Thursday night to help search for two people who went missing from the campground. 

Other deaths include a child who drowned in Wake County and victims of several weather-related crashes in Iredell, Alexander, Rockingham and Person counties. 

Widespread flooding prompted hundreds of road closures, including a few interstate shutdowns and bridge washouts, according to Cooper’s office. 

The N.C. Department of Transportation reported more than 430 closures on state-maintained roads as of Friday morning. 

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