UPDATE: Missing people sought as Alberto soaks several states; 2 dead in Boone, N.C.

Associated Press • May 31, 2018 at 4:36 PM

Rescuers searched Thursday for three people who disappeared in rural Virginia amid flooding that washed out roads and bridges and damaged homes as the effects of Subtropical Storm Alberto were felt across several states.

Heavy rain from the storm’s remnants caused flooding in central Virginia, parts of the Shenandoah Valley and elsewhere in the Southeast. The National Weather Service said that while what was left of Alberto was pushing across the Great Lakes on Thursday, the potential for more rainfall and flash flooding would continue for the Southeast, the Ohio Valley and the mid-Atlantic through the end of the week.

In central Virginia’s Albemarle County, authorities were searching for a man and woman last seen outside their Prius when they and the vehicle were swept away by a creek that had risen above its banks Wednesday night. Officials said a third person also caught up in the water was rescued.

“Ivy Creek is normally a very docile creek but with 8 to 10 inches of rain... it turned into a swollen, raging river. And It just tossed and turned both of those vehicles,” Fire Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston said at a news conference.

Authorities have also responded to at least 10 other water rescues and received reports of damage to homes, the extent of which wasn’t immediately clear, Eggleston said.

Schools in the county were closed due to poor road conditions. Authorities throughout the region posted photos of washed-out roads and bridges, and they warned people to avoid unnecessary travel. One photo posted by the city of Charlottesville showed a playground partially submerged under floodwaters.

Further north in Virginia’s Madison County, the sheriff’s office said rescuers were searching for a female reported missing the night before. Authorities couldn’t immediately be reached Thursday for further details.

Elsewhere in the Southeast, the storms triggered more flooding and mudslides.

In the North Carolina mountains, one of those landslides was blamed for a gas leak that destroyed a home, killing two people. Boone police Sgt. Shane Robbins said the landslide resulted in the “catastrophic destruction” of the home Wednesday afternoon.

Elsewhere, four North Carolina dams being closely watched by a state team of special engineers were holding up, Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday. But Cooper went ahead and declared a state of emergency for his hard-hit mountain counties, saying the forecast for the rest of the week calls for isolated heavy rain storms that could instantly cause flooding in areas that have had 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain in the past 15 days.

“This storm isn’t yet over. I’m urging people to keep a close eye on forecasts,” Cooper said.

Since making landfall on Memorial Day in the Florida Panhandle, Alberto’s heavy rains have been widespread. Scattered flooding was reported in several states from Alabama through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, the Carolinas and Virginia and West Virginia.

Up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rain caused flooding in Helen, a mountain town in Georgia, the National Weather Service said.

Atlanta station WAGA-TV reported that several roads near the downtown area of that German-styled tourist destination were shut down because of the rising water. No injuries were reported.

Two deaths had previously been reported in the U.S. during the storm’s passage. A television news anchor and a photojournalist were killed Monday in North Carolina while covering the weather, when a tree became uprooted from rain-soaked ground and toppled onto their SUV, authorities said. WYFF-TV of Greenville, South Carolina, said news anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer died.

In the mountains of North Carolina, two Department of Transportation workers survived a close call when their dump truck was swept away by a mudslide in McDowell County while trying to clean debris from an earlier slide. The men were able to climb from the overturned truck and stand on its side in the Catawba River until they were rescued, Cooper said.

Authorities in Cuba say Alberto left four people dead there as the storm drenched the island in heavy rain. Interior Minister Julio Cesar Gandarilla said late Tuesday they died as a result of “recklessness” during the storm. He gave no details. The deaths occurred as authorities worked to contain an oil spill in central Cuba’s Cienfuegos Bay that followed the flooding of nearby oil refinery.

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