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2015 - Hazard Analysis

5 - HAZARD ANALYSIS

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The Hazard Analysis section continues to focus on those hazards identified in the Hazard Identification section.  The Hazard Analysis provides a summary of best available information on significant historical hazard events[1] that have occurred in Mecklenburg County, including the seven incorporated jurisdictions participating in this Plan, and also describes the future potential for a hazard event to occur.  When possible, this includes an assessment of the location and spatial extent of potential hazards as well as best available data regarding notable historical damages[2] within the county.  The outline for the Hazard Analysis is the same as that for the Hazard Identification section, and consists of the following hazards:

 

  • FLOOD
  • HURRICANES AND TROPICAL STORMS
  • SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS
  • TORNADOES
  • WINTER STORMS
  • EARTHQUAKES
  • LANDSLIDES
  • SINKHOLES
  • DROUGHT
  • WILDFIRE
  • DAM/LEVEE FAILURE

 

To a large extent, historical records are used to identify the level of risk within the planning area—with the methodological assumption that the data sources cited are reliable and accurate.  This section also provides a series of maps that illustrate the location and spatial extent for those hazards within Mecklenburg County that have a recognizable geographic boundary (i.e., hazards that are known to occur in particular areas of the county such as the 100-year floodplain).  For those hazards with potential risk not confined to a particular geographic area (such as thunderstorms and tornadoes), historical event locations and/or general information on the applicable intensity of these events across the entire planning area is provided. 

It is important to note that for most hazards analyzed in this section, some level of property damage was possible during any or all of the hazard events cataloged.  However, for events reaching deeper into Mecklenburg County’s past, historical records in some instances may show no report of property damage.  Therefore, totals of past property damages derived from historical records are considered to be estimates and should not be used as a stand-alone indicator of hazard risk.

 

The next section included in this Plan, the Vulnerability Assessment, further expands upon the foundation established in the Hazard Identification and Hazard Analysis sections. 

 




SUMMARY OF PRESIDENTIAL DISASTER DECLARATIONS

 

Before beginning the hazard-by-hazard analysis, it is important to note and document past presidential disaster declarations that have included Mecklenburg County.  A presidential disaster declaration is issued when a disaster event has been determined to be beyond the capabilities of state and local governments to respond.  Since 1953—the first year presidential disaster declarations were issued in the United States—Mecklenburg County has been named in five such declarations (Table 5.1). 

 




Table 5.1: Presidential Disaster Declarations Issued for Mecklenburg County

EVENT

DECLARATION DATE

DECLARATION NUMBER

Hurricane Hugo

09/25/1989

844

Blizzard of ‘96

02/02/1996

1087

Severe Winter Storm

01/31/2000

1312

Severe Ice Storm

12/13/2002

1448

Tropical Storm Frances

09/10/2004

1546

Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency

 

Under a presidential disaster declaration, the state and affected local governments are eligible to apply for federal funding to pay 75 percent of the approved costs for debris removal, emergency services related to the storm, and the repair or replacement of damaged public facilities.

 

The county has also experienced additional emergencies and disasters that were not severe enough to require federal disaster relief through a presidential declaration. 


 




FLOOD

 

Mecklenburg County is estimated to have more than 3,000 miles of streams varying in size and depth within its boundaries, the western two-thirds of which drain to the Catawba River System while the eastern one-third drains to the Yadkin River System.  Both of these river systems drain south into South Carolina and eventually flow into the Atlantic Ocean.  When heavy or prolonged rainfall events occur, these rivers and streams are susceptible to some degree of riverine flooding.  There have been a number of past riverine flood events, ranging widely in terms of location, magnitude and impact.  The most frequent flood events have been localized in nature, resulting from heavy rains occurring in a short period of time over urbanized areas that are not able to adequately handle stormwater runoff.  These events typically do not threaten lives or property and do not result in emergency or disaster declarations.[3]

 

Figure 5.1 shows the major water bodies in Mecklenburg County according its 33 unique watersheds.  Watershed boundaries highlighted in yellow indicate those for which detailed studies and flood mitigation plans were completed in 2004.  These studies and plans cover approximately 50 percent of the total land area of the county and 80 percent of Charlotte, and provide estimates of flood damages and recommend mitigation alternatives.  These studies include the following and are essentially adopted by reference as detailed extensions to this Plan:

 

  • Mecklenburg County Floodplain Management Guidance Document
  • Determination of Financial Impacts from Flood Studies
  • Watershed-specific Flood Hazard Mitigation Plans
    • Briar Creek
    • Four Mile Creek
    • Irwin Creek
    • Little Sugar Creek (Lower)
    • Little Sugar Creek (Upper)
    • Mallard Creek
    • McAlpine Creek
    • McDowell Creek
    • McMullen Creek
    • Sugar Creek

 

New floodplain maps for Mecklenburg County were made effective in March 2009.  Figure 5.2 shows the existing potential flood hazard areas throughout the county based on the best available GIS data for the FEMA-identified 100-year and 500-year floodplains.  Figure 5.3 shows a combination of the existing and future potential flood hazard areas throughout the county based on the FEMA and Community-identified 100-year floodplains.  In 2000, Charlotte-Mecklenburg became the first community in the nation to show both current and future floodplains on its official maps.  The “Community Floodplain” illustrates where flooding is likely to occur in the future based on expected development upstream, and extends the existing FEMA 100-year floodplain by approximately 4.18 square miles at the predicted future build-out conditions.  While flood insurance is typically required for properties in a FEMA Floodplain, it is not required in the Community Floodplain but is strongly recommended. However, local development regulations apply to both the FEMA Floodplain and the Community Floodplain.  Where available, more detailed flood hazard data for each participating jurisdiction within the county is provided in Section 6: Vulnerability Assessment

 


Figure 5.1: Major Water Bodies in Mecklenburg County, by Watershed

 

 


Figure 5.2: Existing Potential Flood Hazard Areas (FEMA Floodplains)

 

 


Figure 5.3: Future Potential Flood Hazard Areas (FEMA and Community Floodplains)

 


SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

The most recent, significant flash flood event for Mecklenburg County occurred on January 24-25, 2010 when heavy rains (three inches in four hours) combined with saturated soils caused flooding that forced evacuations and rescues across the Charlotte metro region along with several road closures.  The area along the Briar Creek near the Plaza-Midwood community was especially hard-hit.  Firefighters and police were kept busy for several hours overnight, rescuing trapped motorists and getting people out of homes that were flooded.  Two Charlotte Area Transit System buses were used as temporary shelters during the night, but all residents were able to return to their homes before daybreak on the 25th and no injuries or fatalities were reported.

 

The most recent major and damaging flood event occurred in August 2008 when the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay stalled just west of the Appalachian Mountains, resulting in a prolonged, moist south to southeasterly flow over western North Carolina.  Storm total rainfall in this area averaged 8 to 10 inches, with locally higher amounts, resulting in significant urban and stream flooding – particularly along Briar Creek in east Charlotte.  Numerous evacuations were required of homes and apartments along the creek as water entered dozens of structures, and numerous cars were submerged on Independence Boulevard, with some rescues required.  Other affected roads included Dunlavin Way, Harbinger Court, Chantilly Lane, Cavalier Court, and Dolphin Lane.  Uninsured losses included major damage to 147 homes and 1 business but would have been significantly higher if not for many of the County’s ongoing flood hazard mitigation efforts including its highly successful Floodplain Buyout Program (further discussed in Section 7: Capability Assessment).   

 

In total, downpours from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay flooded more than 600 structures and required the evacuation of dozens of people, including 20 swift-water rescues made by the Charlotte Fire Department.  Total estimated damages from the event are $8.5 million, and approximately 90% of the flooding was in the Briar Creek Watershed.  Rainfall in a 24-hour period in northeastern Mecklenburg County exceeded 11 inches.  Stream gauges measuring how deep the water is in local creeks set 19 new records, exceeding the 100-year flood level in some areas. 

 

Other devastating flood events occurred in Mecklenburg County occurred in August 1995 and July 1997.  The flooding in 1995 was caused by excessive rainfall from the remnants of Tropical Storm Jerry, with rainfall ranging from 3.87 to 9.37 inches throughout the county.  The highest rainfall amounts were concentrated in the southeastern part of the City of Charlotte between Providence Road and East Independence Boulevard, primarily in the Little Sugar Creek and McAlpine Creek drainage basins.  The recurrence interval for a 24-hour storm exceeded 100 years in this part of the city.  Due to the flooding, approximately $4 million in flood insurance claims were paid and $1 million in loans were issued for the repair of properties.  Two years later in July 1997, the remnants of Hurricane Danny caused an estimated total of $8.5 million in property damage in Mecklenburg County and the loss of three lives in floodwaters, including a child in Charlotte who drowned when floodwater swept her into a creek.  Rainfall amounts during the July 1997 storm were far greater than those of the August 1995 storm.  The maximum total rainfall during the 1997 storm was 13.11 inches and the maximum rainfall amount measured in a continuous 24-hour period was 11.40 inches, which exceeds the 100-year storm total by 4.3 inches.  The 24-hour rainfall recurrence interval exceeded 100 years for much of the central part of Mecklenburg County, including a large percentage of the Irwin Creek and Little Sugar Creek Basins (USGS, 1998).  More than 100 flood-prone homes were bought and removed from the floodplain using Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program funds.  Residents participating in these voluntary programs were relocated to higher ground out of harm’s way.

 

Table 5.2 lists the number of insured losses and total claims payments for historical flood damages in each jurisdiction as recorded under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).[4] 

 

Table 5.2: NFIP Statistics on Historical Losses and Claims Payments

JURISDICTION

NFIP ENTRY DATE

TOTAL LOSSES

TOTAL PAYMENTS

Mecklenburg County

06/01/1981

161188

$2,808,438$2,202,649

Charlotte

08/15/1978

1,8832,139

$38,000,582$33,340,976

Cornelius

09/30/1997

13

$46,001$0

Davidson

10/16/1997

210

$0$179,854

Huntersville

02/04/2004

06

$269,245$0

Matthews

02/04/2004

04

$41,250$0

Mint Hill

12/21/07

0

$0

Pineville

03/18/1987

23

$18,800$18,000

TOTAL

 

2,0682,343

$41,184,316$35,741,479

Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency (as of 07/31/200901/13/2015)

 

Table 5.3 provides more descriptive information on 72 103 significant flood events that are known to have occurred between 1900 and 2009 2014 in Mecklenburg County.  The flood events documented here resulted in a total within the county of 17 19 known deaths and four known injuries, and approximately $39.341.4 million in total reported property damages.[5]  Based on historical and anecdotal evidence, it is clear that there is a relatively high frequency of flooding in the county. 

 

Table 5.3: Significant Flood Events (1900-20092014)

LOCATION

DATE OF OCCURRENCE

TYPE OF EVENT

DEATHS/

INJURIES

PROPERTY DAMAGE

DETAILS

Mecklenburg County

1916

Flood

13/0

NR[6]

"Great Flood" on the Catawba River.  Two hurricanes converged over western North Carolina causing more than three days of downpours.  West of Charlotte, the Catawba River crested at more than 47 feet.  The flood water was nearly twice as deep as that of any previously recorded flood.   At least 13 people died when a double-track railroad bridge over the river between Charlotte and Gastonia gave way.  The crews had been trying to secure the bridge when it washed out.  A few survivors were rescued from treetops the following morning.

Mecklenburg County

1928

Flood

0/0

NR

A 10-year flood caused minor property damage.

Mecklenburg County

1936

Flood

0/0

NR

A 20-year flood washed out two bridges on Stewart Creek; several streams were dredged throughout the city and county.

Mecklenburg County

1942

Flood

0/0

NR

A 10-year flood damaged several homes.

Mecklenburg County

1958

Flood

0/0

NR

A 5-year flood damaged several homes; families were evacuated in Myers Park and along Westfield Road.

Mecklenburg County

1962

Flood

0/0

NR

A 5-year flood caused minor flood damage.

Mecklenburg County

1973

Flood

0/0

NR

A 50-year flood along Little Sugar Creek damaged several homes and closed several roads.

Mecklenburg County

1975

Flood

0/0

$12,000,000

A series of three consecutive floods caused an estimated $12 million in damages.

Mecklenburg County

1976

Flood

0/0

NR

A 25-year flood on Irwin and Sugar Creeks severely damaged many homes in Pineville.  It's the second time in two years that Irwin Creek had at least a 25-year flood.

Charlotte

1979

Flood

0/0

NR

25-year flood damaged some homes along McAlpine Creek near Sardis Road.

Charlotte

1982

Flood

0/0

NR

30-year flood in McMullen Creek and 25-year flood on Irwin Creek.

Mecklenburg County

1985

Flood

0/0

NR

Property damage was caused by 25-year floods on Little Sugar Creek and Little Hope Creek.

Charlotte

07/03/1995

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Flooding on Sam Newell Road between East Independence and Highway 51.

Charlotte

08/27/1995

Flash Flood

0/0

$5,000,000

The remnants of Hurricane Jerry dropped 8 to 9 inches of rain producing serious flooding.  Three hundred families were evacuated from their homes, some by boat.  Many roads and bridges were flooded or washed away.  Several roads were covered with 3 to 5 feet of water.  Flooding in the Briar, McMullen and McAlpine watersheds resulted in $4 million in flood insurance claims and an additional $1 million in loans to repair property damage.

Charlotte

10/04/1995

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Flash flooding was reported in several parts of Charlotte.  The areas included Providence Road between Windover and Sharon Amity and Carmel Road between Fairview and Qual Hallow Road.

Charlotte

10/04/1995

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Rainfall amounts of two to four inches produced widespread flooding of major roads in the county.

Charlotte

10/04/1995

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Brier Creek came out of its banks at the intersection of Providence Road and Randolph Road.

Charlotte

08/02/1996

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

No details available.

Southern Portion of Mecklenburg County

08/02/1996

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Slow moving thunderstorms dumped heavy rain across southern Mecklenburg County causing several roads to flood.

Charlotte

08/05/1996

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Slow moving thunderstorms caused severe urban flooding in northeast sections of Charlotte.

Charlotte

08/24/1996

Flash Flood

0/0

$200,000

No details available.

Charlotte

06/13/1997

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Thunderstorms swept over areas of Charlotte causing some severe urban flooding.  Roads were closed around the area because of flooding.

Countywide

07/23/1997

Flash Flood

3/0

$8,500,000

100-year flood in July from the remnants of Hurricane Danny caused $60 million in property damage.  The maximum total rainfall recorded at USGS gauging stations was 13.11" inches over a 36-hour period.  Flood stage record set for Little Sugar Creek at Archdale Drive at 15.06 feet.  A railroad trestle collapsed, sending a CSX locomotive into Little Sugar Creek.  Three people died in the floodwater: a man died in a car accident related to the storm, a woman drowned in her car on a flooded Charlotte street, and a child was swept away while playing near a flooded creek.

Charlotte

07/24/1997

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

The remnants of Hurricane Danny continued to move across the flood-ravaged Charlotte metro area during the early morning hours of the 24th.  Additional rainfall of 2 to 3 inches aggravated the flooding problems mainly south and east of downtown Charlotte.  This round of rain prompted the evacuation of some apartments near Pineville.  Area roads were covered in 2 to 3 feet of water.

South Portion of Mecklenburg County

01/06/1998

Flood

0/0

NR

Heavy rain during the day caused area streams to rise out of their banks, flooding many roads.  One road was washed out between Monroe and Wingate in neighboring Union County and other roads in the far southern part of Mecklenburg County, near the Union County line, were washed out as well.

Charlotte

04/09/1998

Flood

0/0

$50,000

Heavy rain and thunderstorms persisted over the Charlotte metro area during the early morning and resulted in several flooded roads.  A park was flooded in Monroe and people were stranded in their van.  Bridges were covered by the floodwaters in the southern portion of neighboring Cabarrus County with one vehicle stuck in the water.  Apartments and cars in the Briar Creek area of south Charlotte were flooded and some evacuations took place.

Charlotte

06/10/1998

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Heavy rain in a short period of time resulted in some urban flooding from the Belmont and Mount Holly areas, to the south side of Charlotte.  Numerous roads were flooded and several motorists required rescue in different parts of the city. 

Charlotte

07/20/1998

Flash Flood

0/1

NR

Flash flooding occurred in south Charlotte late in the evening and continued into the early morning hours.  One injured woman had to be rescued from her auto on South Boulevard by a firefighter.

Southern Portion of Mecklenburg County

07/27/1998

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Up to 4 inches of rain fell in just a few hours during the morning of the 27th, causing flash flooding across southern Mecklenburg County and much of neighboring Union County.  McAlpine Creek, McMullen Creek and several other creeks flooded in these areas, flooding numerous streets and roads.  A brick wall collapsed, 52 auto accidents occurred and six motorists required rescue in the southern part of Mecklenburg County.

Charlotte

08/09/1998

Urban Flood

0/0

NR

Flood-prone areas of south Charlotte were flooded during heavy rainfall in an afternoon thunderstorm.  Four lanes of Archdale Road were also blocked.  This area usually does not flood easily.

Charlotte

09/03/1998

Flood

0/0

NR

Duration rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Earl caused some flooding problems.  In the southern part of Charlotte, roads and streets were flooded in the typical areas.  High water lingered until at least 9 a.m. the next morning.

Charlotte

01/23/1999

Flash Flood

1/0

NR

Thunderstorms in the Charlotte metro area dumped up to 1.5 inches of rain in a half hour during the afternoon.  This caused severe urban flooding in low-lying paved areas.  A man stepped into a storm drain, then was swept into a creek and drowned. A few roads were flooded and underwater, and a few small streams came out of their banks briefly.

Charlotte

06/10/1999

Urban / Small Stream Flood

0/0

NR

More than one inch of rain fell in a short period of time in Charlotte and caused some urban flooding in which a few cars were involved.  However, no serious problems were reported

Charlotte

07/12/2000

Urban / Small Stream Flood

0/3

NR

Slow-moving thunderstorms produced heavy rain during the late afternoon and early evening.  Three boys sustained minor injuries while playing in a swollen creek which swept them downstream.  Typical urban flooding also occurred in the city.

Charlotte

08/04/2000

Flood

0/0

NR

Four to 6 inches of rain in a three-hour period resulted in several roads becoming impassable due to high water.

Charlotte

08/18/2000

Urban / Small Stream Flood

0/0

NR

Numerous streets were briefly blocked by high water.

Huntersville

09/04/2000

Flood

0/0

NR

Excessive rain from nighttime convection in the area resulted in flooded farm fields and overflowing ditches along Highway 73 about 4 miles west of Huntersville.

Charlotte

05/30/2002

Urban / Small Stream Flood

0/0

NR

Slow moving thunderstorms caused rainfall of 2 to 4 inches to accumulate in a short time across portions of the Charlotte metro area.  Some small streams rose to bank full, and there was some flooding of streets and low lying areas around the city.  Ponding of water on area roads caused some traffic accidents.

Pineville

07/01/2002

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Cars were stalled in a shopping center parking lot by high water from severe urban flooding.  Two people required rescuing from their cars.

Charlotte

07/14/2002

Urban / Small Stream Flood

0/0

NR

Two to three inches of rain fell in a short time, causing local creeks to rise quickly to near bank full.  No creeks reportedly flooded, but usual flood-prone areas in the southern part of the metro area had minor flooding and standing water.

Charlotte

10/13/2002

Flood

0/0

NR

Flooding was reported at the intersection of Morgan Street and Blackman.  Flooding was also reported along an I-85 service road where one car was stranded in water up to its fenders and doors.

Countywide

03/20/2003

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Heavy rainfall resulted in rapid rises and flooding along numerous creeks and small streams in and near the Charlotte metro area.  Severe urban flooding was also reported.

Countywide

03/20/2003

Flood

0/0

$2,000,000

After flash flooding during the morning hours, moderating rainfall resulted in additional flooding along creeks and streams into the evening hours.  Some of the flooding was described as the worst in the area in over five years.  Flooding was especially severe along the Mecklenburg County/Union County line, where some people required rescue from vehicles and homes.

Charlotte

04/10/2003

Flood

0/0

NR

Flooding occurred along many creeks and streams in Charlotte and surrounding areas.

Charlotte

05/22/2003

Flood

0/0

NR

Heavy overnight rainfall resulted in mainly urban flooding in the Charlotte metro area during the morning and early afternoon hours, which resulted in a few road closures.  However, by late afternoon area creeks and streams began to overflow their banks.  By evening, several roads were closed due to flooded creeks and streams, including a portion of I-485, which were covered with water from Briar Creek.  Sugar, Paw and McDowell Creeks also flooded.

Charlotte

06/07/2003

Flash Flood

0/0

$1,000,000

Slow-moving thunderstorms producing very heavy rainfall caused severe urban flooding to development in the Charlotte metro area during the evening of the 7th.  Water levels on the Briar and Sugar Creek systems rose rapidly and overflowed their banks.  Deep water covered portions of Independence Boulevard and several vehicles were submerged.  The first floor of a hotel was flooded, causing severe damage that necessitated rebuilding of the hotel.  Several large sinkholes also developed.  People required rescue from two apartment complexes, as well as from submerged vehicles.

Charlotte

06/16/2003

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Flooding of roads and a campground was reported in areas near the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Matthews

06/16/2003

Flash Flood

0/0

$50,000

A vehicle traveling along Monroe Road was washed into Briar Creek.  Four Mile Creek flooded several yards.  Water also covered I-85 near the I-77 exchange.

Charlotte

06/18/2003

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Several streets were closed on the east side of the city due to high water, including Independence, Randolph, Ballentyne Corporate Road and Sam Newell Road.

Charlotte

07/29/2003

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Several creeks overflowed their banks and flooded adjacent roads.  Sam Newell Road in Matthews was flooded.  In southeast Charlotte, Four Mile Creek flooded Tank Town Road and Briar Creek flooded part of Sheffield Drive.

Charlotte

08/14/2003

Flash Flood

0/0

NR

Severe urban flooding developed during the early evening, with several roads flooded and closed, including Freedom, Ashley and Berry Hill Drives.  Sam Newell Road in Matthews was covered with 5 feet of water. 

Charlotte

07/17/2004

Flash Flood

0/0

$25,000

Severe urban flooding developed across the metro area, as a strong thunderstorm moved across the city, producing rainfall rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour.  Several intersections and roads were closed, and numerous vehicles were stranded in high water.  Several peopled had to be rescued from their vehicles.  In addition, the roof of a business collapsed due to the weight of accumulated water.

Mecklenburg County

09/7/2004

Flood

0/0

$1,500,000

Remnants of Hurricane Frances dumped more than 20 inches of rain in the upper reaches of the Catawba River watershed in September.  The resulting runoff caused significant flooding along the Catawba River below Mountain Island Lake dam.  In Mecklenburg County, more than forty houses were flooded and eight were destroyed, with damages totaling approximately $1.5 million.

Charlotte

09/27/2004

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Moderate to heavy rain fell through much of the early evening hours, but flooding developed rapidly around midnight, as an intense tropical rain band produced around 2 inches of rain across the area in a 2-to-3 hour span.  Overflowing streams caused flooding of numerous roads in areas from Monroe northward to Charlotte and vicinity.

Charlotte

05/10/2005

Flash Flood

0/0

$10,000

Severe urban flooding developed, with 2 cars stranded in water on Sugar Creek Road.  There was also water over North Tryon Street.

Charlotte

05/12/2005

Flash Flood

0/0

$4,000

Severe urban flooding developed, with water deep enough to float a car into the median on Independence Boulevard, and several inches of water covering Queens Road.

Charlotte

06/07/2005

Flash Flood

0/0

$10,000

A tributary of Little Sugar Creek flooded Bradbury and Montford drives in south Charlotte.  Two vehicles were trapped in flood water, and their drivers had to be rescued.  Several homes were threatened for a while, and at least 1 home had water up to the top of the front porch.

Charlotte

06/09/2005

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

A small creek overflowed its banks near Stateville Avenue, with water surrounding a home.  At least one road was covered with water.

Charlotte

07/01/2005

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Severe urban flooding developed in and around Charlotte, with water of 2 to 3 feet reported at some intersections on the southeast side of the city.  This required several rescues.

Charlotte

07/22/2006

Flash Flood

0/0

$100,000

Significant flooding developed along Stewart Creek on the west side of Charlotte after strong to severe thunderstorms dumped 2 to 4 inches of rain over the city.  Water entered several homes on Trade Street near its intersection with Seldon Avenue.  Water also entered several units at 2 apartment complexes along the creek.  Approximately 150 people were forced from their homes due to flood water, and about 5 apartment units were condemned.  In addition to the stream flooding, poor drainage flooding developed in other areas of the city.  25 water rescues were performed, most of them due to motorists driving into deep standing water.

Charlotte

08/15/2006

Flash Flood

0/0

$100,000

Severe urban flooding developed in the Charlotte metro area, when as much as 7.5 inches of rain fell in just a few hours.  High water first developed at flood-prone intersections, such as John Belk Freeway and Independence Boulevard and I-85 and Billy Graham Parkway.  Cars stalled out in deep water on East 9th Street and North Caldwell Avenue.  In all, 12 motorists were rescued from high water across the city.  Numerous other roads and highways were flooded with 2-4 feet of water, including portions of I-85.  Although most of the flooding was due to drainage problems, Briar Creek and Little Sugar Creek both exceeded established flood stages and likely contributed to the problems.  An apartment building on Dolphin Lane was evacuated when water entered one of the units.  Another apartment building was evacuated on Monroe Road when a creek flooded the parking lot.

Charlotte

08/31/2006

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Water from Steele Creek flooded a trailer park on John Price Road, forcing the evacuation of about 100 people.  Steele Creek also flooded Choate Circle near the South Carolina border.

Charlotte

07/09/2007

Flash Flood

0/0

$10,000

Slow moving thunderstorms developed over the Charlotte metro area during the early evening hours, dropping several inches of rain in short period of time, causing significant urban and stream flooding.  Several roads were closed north of Charlotte due to flooding streams, including Mallard Creek Road and Statesville Road near Lakeview Road.  A motorist required rescue from his vehicle when it became submerged on Lakeview Road.  A spotter reported 2-3 feet of water covering the intersection of Westfield Road and Queens Road West.  Additional flooded roads were reported in the vicinity of the I-85 and I-77 exchange.

Charlotte

06/21/2008

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Heavy rain resulted in an isolated area of flash flooding on the northeast side of Charlotte.  A tributary of Little Sugar Creek flooded a business on Atando Road, inundating the building with several feet of water and trapping 5 employees inside.  The employees had to be rescued via rafts.

North Charlotte

08/27/2008

Flash Flood

0/0

$8,500,000

The remnants of Tropical Storm Fay brought as much as 11 inches of rain to the area in less than 24 hours, flooding more than 600 structures and submerging vehicles on numerous roadways with some rescues required.  Numerous evacuations were required of homes and apartments along the Briar Creek, as water entered dozens of structures.  Stream gauges measuring how deep the water is in local creeks set 19 new records, exceeding the 100-year flood level in some areas.

North Charlotte

09/10/2008

Flash Flood

0/0

$100,000

A cluster of slow moving thunderstorms produced several inches of rain over the northeast side of Charlotte, resulting in a flash flooding.  Significant flash flooding developed along Little Sugar Creek in northeast Charlotte.  Sugar Creek Road and Tryon Street were immersed by flood water, with at least one automobile submerged.  Several water rescues were required in the area, with some people trapped in their homes.  A homeless shelter was damaged by floodwater on North Tryon Street.

Charlotte

05/05/2009

Flash Flood

0/0

$50,000

Training thunderstorms caused localized flash flooding across parts of the Charlotte metropolitan area.  Flash flooding developed across the southern and eastern sides of the city after thunderstorms dumped 3 to 5 inches of rain across the area in a couple of hours.  Although much of the flooding was due to poor drainage, Briar Creek, Little Sugar Creek and other small streams flooded.  Numerous motorists were trapped and required rescuing due to flood water, with the most serious situations occurring on Independence Boulevard near Wendover Road, Wellesley Avenue near Freedom Park, and on East Boulevard at Maryland Avenue.  Some residents had to be evacuated from an apartment complex on Monroe Road due to flooding along Briar Creek.  According to Mecklenburg County, floodwater entered the living space of about 10 homes and businesses.  Another 85 buildings had water in crawl spaces or damage to air conditioners, and 80 unoccupied units of the Doral Apartments flooded. Damage was in the McMullen, Briar, and Little Sugar Creek Watersheds.

Charlotte

06/05/2009

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

A mesoscale convective vortex brought heavy rain to the Charlotte metro area, producing flash flooding on the northeast side of town.  Later in the day, an area of thunderstorms developed to the southwest of Concord, producing more flooding.  Rockland Drive was flooded and closed, as was Mary Alexander Road.  Also, the stream gauge on Little Sugar Creek below 36th Street exceeded the established flood stage by more than 2 feet.

Charlotte

07/09/2009

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

A slow moving complex of thunderstorms produced flash flooding in metro Charlotte.  Flooding of quite a few roads developed across the north side of the city, mainly due to poor drainage.  Most of the flooding was concentrated along Freedom Boulevard, where several intersections were under 2-3 feet of water. Flooding extended northeast along portions of Statesville Road and North Tryon Street as well.

Charlotte

07/28/2009

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

An old mesoscale convective vortex spawned numerous showers and thunderstorms over western North Carolina.  Severe urban flooding developed during the evening hours on the south side of Charlotte.  The road was closed at Rodman Street and Sam Drenan Road due to flood water and a sink hole.  Also, Carmel Road was closed due to flooding.  McMullen Creek overflowed its banks, flooding Addison Drive and Lincrest Place with 6-12 inches of water, and Little Sugar Creek exceeded its established flood stage at Hillside Avenue.

Charlotte

08/16/2009

Flash Flood

0/0

$50,000

Slow moving thunderstorms developed over the Charlotte metro area during the afternoon hours, resulting flooding of urban areas and small streams.  Flash flooding developed across portions of the Charlotte metro area after as much as 4 inches of rain fell over the city in just a few hours. Most of the problems were within the Little Sugar Creek basin, especially in the Wakefield Drive area, where roads were flooded and some apartment units were evacuated.  Water ended the crawl spaces of two homes in this area.  The other main problem area was in the Parkwood Road area northeast of Charlotte, where roads were flooded.  Flooding of numerous intersections was reported due to poor drainage, including at Tyvola Road and I-77, where two vehicles were reported floating through high water. 

Pineville

01/25/2010

Flash Flood

0/0

$40,000

A combination of urban flooding and small stream flooding developed across much of the southern and eastern half of Mecklenburg County. The Briar Creek basin was hardest hit, with numerous roads closed along the creek and several rescues required from vehicles. A few of the closed roads included Independence Bvd, Shannonhouse Dr, Dunlavin Way, and Country Club Dr. Other closed roads included Reedy Creek Rd 11 miles east of town, Sharon Rd, Lancaster Highway 13 miles south of town, Woodland Dr at Commonwealth Ave, and Eastway Dr.

Pineville

01/26/2010

Flood

0/0

$0

Although heavy rainfall ended across the area during the early morning hours, high water conditions persisted until after sunrise across the Charlotte metro area.

Charlotte

05/31/2010

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Little Sugar Creek overflowed its banks, flooding and closing Freedom Park.

Charlotte

06/01/2010

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Slow moving thunderstorms caused flooding of several roads near the city center, including Tryon St and Independence Bvd. In addition, McMullen Creek flooded Lincrest Place and Little Hope Creek flooded Mockingbird Ln on the south side of the city.

Stonehaven

06/02/2010

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

McMullen Creek overflowed its banks and flooded several roads on the southeast side of Charlotte, including Addison Dr, Nottingham Dr and Willhaven Dr.

Stonehaven

06/30/2010

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Flooding developed along McMullen Creek on the southeast side of town, with Addison Dr and Lincrest Place covered with about a foot of water.

Oakhurst

07/12/2010

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Apartments were flooded on Teal Point Dr due to Edwards Branch overflowing its banks. Also, McMullen Creek overflowed and flooded Lincrest Place and Sam Newell Rd was flooded by Irvin Creek.

Charlotte

07/27/2010

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Several roads were flooded throughout the city due to poor drainage. A gage along McMullen Creek went about a foot above flood stage at Addison Dr and Lincrest Place, about 5 miles southeast of Uptown, and flooding along Briar Creek was reported in the South Park area.

Haskings Mills

08/06/2010

Flash Flood

0/0

$20,000

A stream gauge on Irwin Creek at Statesville Rd exceeded the established flood stage by more than 2 feet, flooding a portion of Dilworth Rd. Flash flooding along Stewart Creek forced evacuations of an apartment complex on Southwest Bvd. Water rescues from automobiles were also reported on the north side of the city during this time.

Thomasboro

08/19/2010

Flash Flood

0/0

$50,000

Quite a few roads were closed near the city center, mainly on the east side, primarily due to poor drainage. Affected roads included Tryon St, East 4th St, Hubbard Rd, and Delilah Ln. Several water rescues were required from automobiles in this area. Additionally, a stream gauge on Mallard Creek reached the established flood stage near Harrisburg. Heavy rainfall also caused the roof to collapse at a homeless shelter on N College St.

Thrift

08/05/2011

Flash Flood

0/0

$1,500,000

A major flash flood event developed in the Charlotte metro area after 4-7 inches of rain fell in about a three hour period. Most of the streams in the city overflowed their banks at some point, including Sugar Creek, Little Sugar Creek, McMullen Creek, Stewart Creek, Irwin Creek, and Mallard Creek. Locations from near downtown to the north side of the city were particularly hard hit. Automated gauges on some of these streams exceeded established flood stages by five feet or more, including some record crests observed on portions of Irwin, Sugar, and Stewart Creeks. Numerous roads were flooded and closed due to flooding streams or poor drainage, with water accumulating to depth of several feet in some areas. Numerous swift water rescues were required, including twenty people alone from a single apartment complex off Beatties Ford Rd. Approximately 80 homes were damaged across the city.

Matthews

08/05/2011

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Four Mile Creek flooded Tank Town Rd and Beards Creek flooded Sam Newell Rd. Both locations are near Matthews.

Matthews

08/05/2011

Flash Flood

2/0

$0

A mother and daughter drowned when they attempted to wade through a rain-swollen tributary of Irvins Creek, about 9 miles southeast of Center City Charlotte. The approximate time of death was 1:30 pm EST (or 2:30 pm EDT).

Stonehaven

09/23/2011

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

A webcam and stream gage verified that McMullen Creek overflowed its banks and flooded Addison Dr.

Idlewild

09/23/2011

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

A webcam and stream gage verified that Briar Creek flooded Shamrock Dr.

Stonehaven

07/20/2012

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Addison Drive was flooded by McMullen Creek.

Stonehaven

07/20/2012

Flash Flood

0/0

$40,000

McMullen Creek overflowed it's banks, entering the crawl spaces of 4 houses along Johnny Cake Lane.

Pineville

08/07/2012

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

A few back roads were closed in parks near Pineville due to high water.

Thomasboro

08/07/2012

Flash Flood

0/0

$20,000

People in two separate vehicles required rescue at the intersection of Ashley Road and Wilkinson Blvd. Another vehicle was trapped in high water at Camp Greene Street at Freedom Drive. A final water rescue occurred at the intersection of Wesley Village and Freedom Drive. All of these are on the west side of Charlotte where automated gauges reported 2 to 3 inches of rain in a little over an hour.

Stonehaven

09/08/2012

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Addison Drive and Lincrest Place were flooded and closed by McMullen Creek after 2 to 2.5 inches of rain fell in an hour's time.

Matthews

06/02/2013

Flash Flood

0/0

$5,000

In excess of two inches of rain fell in an hour's time, causing a small stream to flood Tank Town Road. The water was reported to be between 4 and 6 feet deep over the road. One car stalled in the flood waters and had to be pushed to higher ground. Minor flooding was also reported along Sam Newell Rd south of Independence Blvd. Water was about 1 to 2 feet deep over Morningwood Drive near St John Street in this same area. A car stalled in flood waters at this location as well.

Hahn

06/03/2013

Flash Flood

0/0

$10,000

Mallard Creek flooded Kirk Farm Fields Park, near the intersection of Mallard Creek Church Road and North Tryon Street. Water was 2 to 3 feet deep in much of the park. A delivery truck was partially submerged by the flood waters.

Hoods

06/07/2013

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Tank Town road was flooded by a stream.

Cornelius

06/28/2013

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Several roads were reportedly flooded in Cornelius.

Smithville

06/28/2013

Flash Flood

0/0

$250,000

Several inches of rain fell over a period of a couple hours across the northern tip of Mecklenburg County. Two Cocorahs observers reported around 5.50 inches of rain in this area. A bridge was flooded at Cashion Rd and Beatties Ford Rd. Sam Furr Road was flooded by McDowell Creek, just west of Interstate 77. Several cars stalled in the floodwaters at this location, with 4 people pulled from 3 different cars. Four ground floor apartments in Huntersville were flooded with 4 to 5 inches of water. McIlwaine Road was flooded and closed by a stream. Gilead Road was damaged by floodwaters, requiring $168,000 in repairs.

Mecklenburg Co.

07/11/2013

Flash Flood

0/0

$20,000

Some homes were flooded along Stewart Creek with evacuations. Flooding was reported along Margaret Turner Road with water reportedly entering one home. Stewart Creek also flooded Southwest Blvd.

Charlotte

07/11/2013

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

West Morehead Street was flooded and closed by Stewart Creek. Spruce, Merriman and Wilmore Streets were flooded in this same area, forcing some residents to evacuate.

Mecklenburg Co.

07/21/2013

Flash Flood

0/0

$90,000

Around 2 inches of rain fell in less than an hour, sending a small stream into 9 apartments in the Arcadian Village Apartment complex on Cedars East Court. The Red Cross sheltered 30 people whose apartments were damaged by the knee-deep flood waters. Also, McMullen Creek flooded portions of Addison Drive and Lincrest Place.

Mecklenburg Co.

07/24/2013

Flash Flood

0/0

$0

Several Streets around Southpark Mall were flooded and closed during the late evening hours as a result of severe urban flooding, including the intersection of Fairview Road and Sharon Road.

Douglas Muni Arpt

07/03/2014

Flash Flood

0/0

$10,000

FD and public reported flash flooding throughout the west side of Charlotte, primarily as a result of poor drainage, after 2-3 inches of rain fell in just a couple of hours. Multiple roads were closed throughout this area, including Freedom Drive, which was reported to have as much as two feet of water over it just northwest of downtown.

Matthews

07/15/2014

Flash Flood

0/0

$100,000

A cluster of slow moving and repeating thunderstorms produced 3.5 to 5 inches of rain in less than two hours near the Mecklenburg/ Union County line. Severe urban and small stream flooding occurred in the Matthews area, with water up to the windows of some vehicles. Stream flooding included a tributary of McAlpine Creek which flooded a part of Sam Newell Rd. Multiple roads were closed throughout the city.

TOTAL

1719/4

$39,25941,414,000

 

Sources: Mecklenburg County (1900 to 1993 data); Mecklenburg County and National Climatic Data Center (1993 to 2009 2014 data)

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Flooding remains a highly likely occurrence throughout the identified flood hazard areas of Mecklenburg County.  Smaller floods caused by heavy rains and inadequate drainage capacity will be more frequent, but not as costly as the large-scale floods which may occur at much less frequent intervals.  While the potential for flood is always present, Mecklenburg County continues to reduce the likelihood of repetitive flood losses to existing development through its ongoing flood mitigation programs (including its Floodplain Buyout Program).  Further, the County and each of its municipal jurisdictions do have effective flood damage prevention ordinances and other local regulatory policies for new development in place that should help lessen potential property damage due to future floods.  These flood mitigation programs and policies are further discussed and demonstrated in Section 6: Vulnerability Assessment and Section 7: Capability Assessment.   


 

HURRICANES AND TROPICAL STORMS

 

On average, North Carolina experiences a hurricane approximately once every two years.  Substantial hurricane damage is most likely to occur in the easternmost counties of the state; however, hurricane and tropical storm-force winds have significantly impacted areas far inland, including Mecklenburg County.  In fact, 32 such storms have passed within 75 miles of Mecklenburg County since 1851 (Figure 5.4), seven of which crossed directly through the county.  Two of the 32 storms were Category 2 hurricanes (Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and an unnamed hurricane in 1896), three were Category 1 hurricanes (Hurricane Able in 1952 and two unnamed hurricanes in 1893 and 1904), and 27 were tropical storms.  Of the seven storms that passed through the county, Able was the most recent (1952).

 

No nor’easters are known to have significantly impacted Mecklenburg County in recent history.  If a nor’easter had impacted the county, the effects would have been perceived as severe winter weather and not as a coastal cyclone event.

 

 


Figure 5.4: Historical Storm Tracks Within 75 Miles of Mecklenburg County (Since 1851)

 

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

There is very little detailed information on the historical impacts of past hurricane and tropical storm events in Mecklenburg County.  No official historical records or damage statistics specific to the area are available through Mecklenburg County, the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The county is known to have sustained a significant portion of the estimated statewide total of $1 billion in property damages caused by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Mecklenburg County’s most powerful storm event to date.  Brief descriptions of significant known historical events, including Hurricane Hugo, are provided below. 

 

Hurricane Hugo made landfall as a Category 4 storm on September 22, 1989 at Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina and tracked northward across the Charlotte metro area (pictured right).  As Hugo crossed western North Carolina, the storm dumped 3 to 7 inches of rain and caused wind damage as far north as Caldwell County.  In North Carolina, Charlotte recorded the highest sustained wind of 69 miles per hour and wind gusts of 87 miles per hour, and a barometric pressure of 978 millibars.  Mecklenburg County reported 3.16 inches of rain from the storm.  Twenty-nine counties in North Carolina were presidentially declared disaster areas, with an estimated $1 billion in damages in North Carolina.  In Mecklenburg County, the winds downed trees and power lines causing massive disruption for days.  The following description of Hurricane Hugo was excerpted from North Carolina’s Hurricane History by author Jay Barnes.

 

“As the center of the storm rolled past Charlotte, wind gusts of over 85 mph buffeted the region.  Trees crashed into homes, cars, and power lines and utility poles snapped.  Charlotte lost more than eighty thousand trees to the storm, many of which were more than seventy years old.  Ninety-eight percent of the city's residents lost power, and for some, repairs were not made for more than two weeks.  Power outages caused large amounts of raw sewage to bypass treatment plants and flow into streams throughout Mecklenburg County.  North Carolina's largest metropolitan area was brought to its knees by the storm...

 

…The people of Mecklenburg County thought they were immune to hurricanes prior to this storm's arrival.  Most had believed that tropical cyclones were strictly a coastal phenomenon, but Hugo proved to be an exception.” (Jay Barnes 1998)

 

An unnamed tropical storm caused winds up to 60 mph in the Charlotte area on July 14, 1916.  An unnamed tropical storm impacted Mecklenburg County August 28, 1949 with heavy rains and minimal gale force winds.  Hurricane Gracie crossed into North Carolina as a tropical storm and moved rapidly north out of the state, bringing heavy rain to Mecklenburg County on September 30, 1959.  Although Hurricane Abby had dissipated by the time it reached North Carolina, remnants of the storm impacted Mecklenburg County on June 7 to June 13, 1968.  Charlotte recorded 5.11 inches of rain, a wind gust of 46 mph, and one tornado that was spawned near Charlotte.  Damages in the Charlotte area were estimated by the National Weather Service to be $30,000.  Hurricane Ginger was a Category 1 storm when it made landfall near Atlantic Beach, North Carolina on September 30/October 1, 1971.  The Charlotte area recorded a wind gust of 30 mph and 2.21 inches of rain as a result of this storm.

 

Table 5.4 shows the historical storm tracks within 75 miles of Mecklenburg County since 1851 that are the basis for Figure 5.4. 

 

Table 5.4: Historical Storm Tracks Within 75 Miles of Mecklenburg County (Since 1851)

DATE OF OCCURRENCE

STORM NAME

WIND SPEED
(MPH)

STORM CATEGORY

1854

Not Named

70

Tropical Storm

1859

Not Named

45

Tropical Storm

1877

Not Named

45

Tropical Storm

1878

Not Named

70

Tropical Storm

1882

Not Named

45

Tropical Storm

1885

Not Named

45

Tropical Storm

1886

Not Named

45

Tropical Storm

1888

Not Named

40

Tropical Storm

1889

Not Named

50

Tropical Storm

1893

Not Named

45

Tropical Storm

1893

Not Named

85

Category 1 Hurricane

1896

Not Named

100

Category 2 Hurricane

1901

Not Named

40

Tropical Storm

1902

Not Named

40

Tropical Storm

1904

Not Named

80

Category 1 Hurricane

1906

Not Named

70

Tropical Storm

1912

Not Named

40

Tropical Storm

1913

Not Named

40

Tropical Storm

1913

Not Named

40

Tropical Storm

1916

Not Named

65

Tropical Storm

1920

Not Named

65

Tropical Storm

1927

Not Named

45

Tropical Storm

1935

Not Named

65

Tropical Storm

1945

Not Named

45

Tropical Storm

1949

Not Named

45

Tropical Storm

1952

Able (5)

80

Tropical Storm

1959

Cindy

40

Tropical Storm

1959

Gracie

70

Tropical Storm

1979

David

65

Tropical Storm

1985

Bob

65

Tropical Storm

1988

Chris

40

Tropical Storm

1989

Hugo

100

Category 2 Hurricane

Source: National Hurricane Center

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Mecklenburg County will not likely experience the effects of a major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricane, however the county remains susceptible to the high wind effects from such storms making landfall along the Atlantic coast of the United States.  The effects of tropical storms (sustained wind speeds of at least 39 miles per hour and torrential rains) will be more frequent, as storms making landfall along the Atlantic seaboard as well as the Gulf Coast could impact the county in any given year.

 


 

SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS

 

Thunderstorms are common throughout the state of North Carolina, and have been known to occur during all months of the year.  In addition to the high winds associated with these events, thunderstorms can also bring dangerous lightning that can cause fires, property damage and may cause death or serious injury.  Thunderstorms can also produce hail, which can cause varying degrees of property and crop damage.  According to information provided by the National Lightning Safety Institute, the Piedmont Region, which includes Mecklenburg County, experiences an average of 70 thunderstorm days per year.  According to the National Climatic Data Center, Mecklenburg County has experienced a recorded 244 severe thunderstorm events since 1950 resulting in  four deaths, 13 injuries and approximately $2.2 million in property damage.  In addition, and described separately herein, Mecklenburg County experienced 160 documented hail events since 1950 resulting in an estimated $1 million in reported property damages, and 32 lightning events resulting in 3 fatalities, seven injuries and an estimated $2.7 million in property damages.    

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

Table 5.5 provides details of historical severe thunderstorm activity in Mecklenburg County for those events that resulted in casualties or property damage as recorded by the National Climatic Data Center.[7]  The most notable thunderstorm damage occurred on July 20, 1998 when a storm moved into southern Mecklenburg County and blew down six trees on the southwest side of Charlotte striking 15 dwellings including apartments, condominiums and houses and causing an estimated $1 million in property damages.  Also, flash flooding occurred in the city late in the evening of the 20th and continued into the early morning hours.  One injured woman had to be rescued from her car during this storm event.

 

Table 5.5: Significant Severe Thunderstorm Events (1950-20092014)

LOCATION

DATE OF OCCURRENCE

MAGNITUDE

(KNOTS)

DEATHS/

INJURIES

PROPERTY DAMAGE

DETAILS

Mecklenburg

08/20/1990

58

0/1

NR

No details available.

Mecklenburg

06/21/1992

0

0/1

NR

No details available.

Charlotte

05/19/1993

N/A

0/0

$5,000

Thirty trees were blown down and a carport destroyed.

Mecklenburg

01/18/1996

N/A

0/0

$3,125

An extremely strong cold front, preceded by heavy rain all day, moved through the Piedmont during the night with the highest winds recorded in 20 years of record.

Charlotte

04/30/1996

0

0/0

$25,000

No details available.

Huntersville

05/27/1996

50

0/0

$5,000

No details available.

Huntersville

08/03/1996

65

0/0

$50,000

No details available.

Charlotte

02/21/1997

50

0/0

$25,000

No details available.

Cornelius

08/04/1997

70

0/0

$25,000

Two severe thunderstorms moved south-southeast causing significant damage.  Around Lake Norman in northern Mecklenburg County several boats were capsized and hundreds of trees were blown down.  There was also some damage to homes from both wind and fallen trees.

Mecklenburg

02/24/1998

50

0/0

$1,250

High gradient winds in the wake of an exiting strong storm system combined with saturated soil conditions to blow down some trees and power lines across the Piedmont.

Charlotte

04/19/1998

50

0/0

$70,000

Fast low-topped thunderstorms moved rapidly north across the Charlotte metro area during the afternoon hours.  A few of the storms became severe and produced a moderate amount of wind damage.  A large tree was blown onto two cars, one house and broke a gas line on the south side of Charlotte.  Trees and power lines were downed from Matthews to Mint Hill.  North of Charlotte, a roof was blown off an old grocery store, a beauty shop was damaged, mobile home windows were blown out, and a car had a piece of wood hurled through its glass.

Charlotte

07/20/1998

50

0/0

$1,000,000

A strong thunderstorm struck 15 dwellings including apartments, condominiums and houses in the Charlotte area.  Damage was estimated near $1 million.

Charlotte

08/08/1998

52

0/0

$12,000

A couple of severe thunderstorms developed late in the afternoon in the Piedmont.  In east Charlotte trusses were blown off a house under construction and limbs were knocked down.

Mecklenburg

09/15/1999

45

0/1

NR

Near and east of Interstate 77, winds directly associated with Hurricane Floyd caused scattered damage.  Winds gusting between 35 and 45 mph downed some trees and power lines.

Mecklenburg

03/28/2000

50

0/1

NR

High winds following a cold front caused a number of problems during the afternoon hours.  Numerous trees and power lines were downed and some light structural damage occurred.  Several thousand people were without power for a short time.  Downed trees and power lines in Charlotte blocked streets.

Charlotte

08/18/2000

75

1/2

$250,000

A large swath of wind damage occurred from Ericsson Stadium to the east side of Charlotte.  A trained spotter estimated the wind speed to be 90 mph at Dillworth Square.  Other estimates were reported of between 75 and 100 mph.  Numerous trees and power lines were downed and a canopy was blown off a gas station.  Numerous streets were blocked and Interstate 85 was blocked in both directions.  Nearly 90,000 people were left without power.  The County 911 center said this event generated the most calls since Hurricane Hugo moved through Charlotte.  Falling trees injured two people, and one person drowned when his boat was blown away from where he was swimming.

Mecklenburg

12/17/2000

55

0/0

$25,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

03/20/2001

55

0/0

$45,455

No details available.

Mecklenburg

04/17/2001

50

1/0

NR

Gusty winds were strong enough to cause scattered damage.  In Charlotte, a number of trees and limbs fell.  One 60-foot section of a tree fell on a car, resulting in a fatality.

Cornelius

05/13/2002

55

0/0

$3,000

Numerous trees and power lines were blown down.

Charlotte

05/13/2002

60

0/0

$50,000

A roof was partially blown off of a business, a crane was blown over and numerous power lines were blown down.

Matthews

05/13/2002

52

0/0

$50,000

A tractor-trailer truck was toppled, and numerous trees and power lines were blown down.

Pineville

07/01/2002

50

0/0

$1,000

Power lines were blown down in Pineville.  Trees were blown down along Highway 51 near Pineville.

Mecklenburg

07/02/2002

60

0/0

$3,000

Numerous trees and power lines were blown down.

Charlotte

07/03/2002

50

0/0

$8,000

A tree was blown onto a car.  Several traffic lights and signs were damaged.

Charlotte

07/03/2002

50

0/0

$20,000

Trees were blown down onto an apartment complex, resulting in evacuation of some units.

Charlotte

07/03/2002

55

0/0

$3,000

Numerous trees and power lines were blown down.

Charlotte

08/16/2002

50

0/0

$1,000

Some power lines were blown down.

Cornelius

08/24/2002

55

0/0

$3,000

Numerous trees and power lines were blown down.

Charlotte

05/02/2003

65

0/2

$100,000

Tents, booths, and other property were blown down at an arts and food festival in uptown Charlotte.  Some structures received damage.  Flying debris injured two people.  Trees and power lines were blown down in areas south of town.

Huntersville

05/02/2003

60

0/3

$25,000

Numerous trees and power lines were blown down.  A tree fell through a mobile home, resulting in serious injuries to two people, and minor injuries to a third.

Charlotte

07/09/2003

50

0/0

$1,000

Trees were blown down.

Huntersville

07/11/2003

50

0/0

$1,000

Trees were blown down.

Huntersville

07/12/2003

50

0/0

$5,000

Trees were blown down.

Charlotte

08/05/2003

50

0/0

$5,000

No details available.

Charlotte

08/22/2003

54

0/0

$1,000

Wind equipment at the Charlotte/Douglass International Airport measured a wind gust of 62 mph.  Trees and power lines were blown down in the same area.

Huntersville

11/19/2003

50

0/0

$1,000

Some power lines were blown down.

Charlotte

11/19/2003

50

0/0

$1,000

Large tree limbs and power lines were blown down in scattered locations across the city.

Mecklenburg
Huntersville

03/07/2004

65

1/2

$55,000

Numerous trees and power lines were blown down, while roofs were torn off of some buildings.  Some outbuildings and barns were damaged or destroyed.  In Mecklenburg County, an 81-year-old man was killed in Huntersville, when a tree fell across the deck on which he was standing.

Charlotte

05/31/2004

50

0/0

$1,000

Several power lines were blown down.

Charlotte

01/14/2005

50

0/0

$4,000

County reports a tree blown onto a house.

Charlotte

01/14/2005

50

0/0

$5,000

A few trees down in the city.  One fell on a house, causing damage.

Charlotte

03/08/2005

60

0/0

$50,000

Tree fell on a car on Mount Holly Road near NC 27.  Several trees fell on homes along Beatties Ford Road near LaSalle Street.  Some roofs were torn off buildings in this same area.

Pineville

03/08/2005

60

0/0

$20,000

Several 8-inch diameter pine trees blown down near the intersection of highways 51 and 521.  A large road sign was blown down on I-485, and some scaffolding was blown down at a construction site.  A portion of the roof was torn off Charlotte Catholic High (10 S. City Center) and several large trees were blown down on Windyrush Road near Rea Road.  Numerous power outages were reported.

Davidson

07/28/2005

55

0/0

$10,000

Quite a few trees, power lines, and power poles down, with at least 2 trees on houses.

Charlotte

02/04/2006

50

0/0

$10,000

Two trees blown down on the east side of Charlotte and a privacy fence blown down.  One large tree fell on a home, causing significant damage.

Charlotte

06/11/2006

60

0/0

$100,000

Numerous trees were blown down in various locations across the southern part of the city due to a series of microbursts.  Several trees on homes in the Sardis Road area around Bently Oaks Road and Chevron Road.  A private sector meteorologist estimated wind speeds at 65 to 75 mph based on the damage.  Also, a spotter reported 3 trees snapped off on Patrick Springs Court.  Trees were also blown down on Kings Drive and Hartford Avenue.  Trees were also blown down in the Matthews area. There were at least 28,000 power outages in the area.

Mecklenburg

04/16/2007

60

0/0

$22,727

Widespread damaging high wind event, with most damage reports coming from north of Charlotte and throughout the Piedmont.  Thousands of trees fell across the region, resulting in widespread power outages.  Numerous trees fell on roads, homes, and vehicles but no specific reports of damage in Mecklenburg County. The Blue Ridge mountains and the foothills received the brunt of the strongest winds.

Charlotte

08/26/2007

60

0/0

$50,000

Isolated severe storms affected the mountains and Piedmont of North Carolina during the afternoon and early evening hours.  The roof of a business was damaged on Statesville Road.  Part of the roof of a restaurant was damaged at the intersection of I-485 and Sunset.  A canopy at a gas station was lifted and fell on several vehicles near the intersection of Sunset and Reames Road.  Trees and power lines were blown down near the intersection of Beatties Ford Road and Trinity Road, and at I-485 and Brookshire.

Mecklenburg

03/09/2008

45

1/0

$0

Gusty winds toppled a large tree, which fell on a vehicle at the corner of East Boulevard and Asheville Place.  The impact killed the 53-year-old woman driving the vehicle.

North Charlotte

04/19/2013

40

0/0

$5,000

A large tree was split on Shamrock Dr near Palm Ave, falling on a vehicle and clipping the roof of a house.

Shopton

06/10/2013

50

0/0

$10,000

Multiple trees and power lines were blown down across the city. Power lines fell on a vehicle on Park Dr (3 S) and a tree fell on a vehicle on Seneca Place.

TOTAL

 

 

4/13

$2,151,727

 

Source: National Climatic Data Center

 

North Carolina had 29 lightning-related deaths from 1990 to 2003 ranking North Carolina fifth in the United States in such deaths.  Thirty-twoFourty-four lightning events not directly associated with a thunderstorm event are known to have impacted Mecklenburg County since 1995, resulting in three known deaths, seven eight known injuries and over $23.7 million in reported property damage, as shown in Table 5.6.  The University of North Carolina at Charlotte conducted a study to evaluate whether there is geographic correlation of lightning damage with environmental and socio-economic variables in Mecklenburg County.  The study found that the majority of lightning damage during a period from 1993 to 1995 occurred in the South Planning District among seven districts in which a significant suburban growth in Mecklenburg County has taken place since 1950.  This planning area has been one of the primary locations for new residential developments containing predominantly single family residences over $100,000 (Cao, Xiang and Wilson,GIS-Based Study of Lightning Damages). 

 

According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, damage estimates reported by government agencies (such as NCDC) do not accurately represent actual losses due to underestimation or underreporting of actual damages.  Nationwide, realistic lightning costs and losses may reach $4 to $5 billion per year including losses associated with forest fires, insurance claims and damages to warehouses, aircraft, electrical infrastructure and nuclear power plants.

 


 

Table 5.6: Lightning Activity in Mecklenburg County (1950-20042014)

LOCATION

DATE OF OCCURRENCE

DEATHS/

INJURIES

PROPERTY DAMAGE

DETAILS

Unincorporated Mecklenburg County

07/16/1995

0/0

$50,000

Lightning and the ensuing fire damaged a home substantially.

Charlotte

07/23/1997

0/0

$100,000

Lightning struck a home in north Charlotte. 

Charlotte

06/10/1998

0/0

$200,000

Lightning severely damaged a church in Millersville, but no damage estimate was available.  Several homes were struck by lightning in the Charlotte area, causing extensive damage.

Countywide

07/20/1998

0/0

$1,000,000

Intense cloud to ground lightning struck 15 dwellings ranging from apartments to condominiums to houses in the Charlotte area.  Damage was estimated near $1 million as many homes were destroyed.

Charlotte

07/31/1999

0/0

NR[8]

Lightning strikes across the region caused numerous structure fires.

Charlotte

06/14/2000

0/1

NR

A woman hanging clothes was shocked and injured by lightning that struck nearby her Charlotte home.

Charlotte

07/07/2000

0/0

$100,000

Lightning struck an apartment complex in Charlotte and caused a fire that destroyed the roof of one building.  Fourteen people were left homeless.

Charlotte

07/03/2002

0/0

$20,000

Lightning struck a house and a condominium, resulting in damage to both.

Charlotte

07/03/2002

0/0

$10,000

Lightning ignited two house fires.

Charlotte

07/04/2002

0/0

$260,000

Lightning, some at apartments and houses ignited at least three major fires.

Huntersville

05/02/2003

0/1

NR

No details available.

Charlotte

06/16/2003

0/0

$250,000

Lightning struck the roof of a condominium, resulting in a fire that caused significant damage.

Charlotte

07/19/2003

0/0

$30,000

A house was struck by lightning.

Charlotte

07/21/2003

0/1

NR

A person was injured after being struck by lightning.

Matthews

07/29/2003

3/1

$30,000

Three people were killed and another injured when lightning struck a large oak tree, which then fell on and crushed the vehicle they were sitting in.  The fallen tree damaged two other vehicles.

Charlotte

07/29/2003

0/1

NR

A person was injured when he was struck by lightning.

Charlotte

08/14/2003

0/0

NR

Lightning struck two homes.

Charlotte

05/23/2004

0/0

$250,000

Two houses and an apartment complex were damaged due to fires ignited by lightning.

Pineville

06/08/2004

0/0

$5,000

Intense lightning caused widespread power outages in Pineville and surrounding areas.  Three houses were struck on Lancaster Highway alone.

Charlotte

07/05/2004

0/0

$20,000

Lightning ignited several fires at homes and outbuildings.

Charlotte

05/10/2005

0/0

$50,000

Report of 8 to 9 homes struck by lightning.  A fire was started at one of the homes, resulting in considerable damage.

Charlotte

06/07/2005

0/0

$25,000

Lightning ignited fires at 2 homes.

Charlotte

07/1/2005

0/0

$60,000

Lightning was responsible for at least 6 house fires across the city.

Matthews

07/18/2005

0/0

$0

Lightning knocked out power to about 6,000 customers in the Matthews area.

Huntersville

07/28/2005

0/0

$20,000

Lightning struck a house, which ignited a fire that destroyed the porch and damaged the main part of the house.

Charlotte

04/03/2006

0/0

$15,000

Lightning ignited a house fire in northwest Charlotte.

Charlotte

06/23/2006

0/1

$0

A utility worker working on a water line was injured when lightning struck the ground nearby.

Charlotte

07/22/2006

0/0

$150,000

Lightning started a fire at the Barton Creek Apartment Complex near UNC-Charlotte.

Huntersville

06/24/2007

0/0

$20,000

Lightning struck a home, igniting a fire that damaged the roof. 

Charlotte

07/07/2007

0/0

$20,000

Lightning struck a house, igniting a fire that damaged the roof and attic.

Charlotte

07/22/2008

0/0

$50,000

Lightning ignited a fire at a home on Morton Street, causing significant damage.

Charlotte

05/02/2009

0/1

$0

Lightning ignited a fire at a home on Nevin Road, causing extensive damage and causing minor injuries to a firefighter.

Pineville

06/13/2010

0/0

$50,000

Lightning ignited a fire at a home on John Beck Dr, causing significant damage.

Alexanders Store

06/13/2010

0/0

$150,000

Lightning ignited a fire at an apartment building on Corktree Ct, damaging the building and forcing evacuation of five families.

Matthews

07/13/2010

0/0

$100,000

Lightning struck a home on Saintsbury Place, igniting a fire that caused significant damage.

Matthews

07/27/2010

0/0

$100,000

Lightning ignited a fire at a home on Tripper Ln, causing significant damage.

Oakhurst

07/27/2010

0/0

$100,000

Lightning ignited a fire at a home on Langhorne Ave, causing significant damage.

Pineville

06/21/2011

0/0

$200,000

Lightning struck a home on Polo Ridge Ct, igniting a fire that caused significant damage.

Pineville

08/07/2011

0/0

$150,000

Lightning started a fire at a home on James Jack Lane, which heavily damaged the second floor of the home.

Smithville

03/20/2012

0/0

$50,000

Lightning struck a single family home on John Connor Rd near Lake Norman. The strike immediately started a fire that spread thorough the upstairs part of the home.

Griffith

05/22/2012

0/0

$50,000

Lightning started a fire at an apartment building on Cherrycrest Lane. The blaze damaged two units of the complex, causing about 50 thousand dollars worth of damage.

Croft

07/01/2012

0/0

$25,000

Lightning struck a home on Davis Lake Parkway, starting a fire that caused some structural damage.

Griffith

07/16/2012

0/0

$5,000

Lightning struck a tree on Starcrest Dr, igniting a fire. The tree then fell against a home, burning a portion of the exterior.

Charlotte

06/25/2014

0/1

$0

Media reported a 9-year-old boy received serious injuries from a lightning strike near Johnson C Smith University.

TOTAL

 

3/78

$2,735,0003,715,000

 

Source: National Climatic Data Center

 

Table 5.7 shows a summary of reported hail events for unincorporated areas of Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews and Mint Hill between 1950 and 20092014.  A total of 160 205 hail events are known to have impacted Mecklenburg County since 1950, resulting in a total of approximately $1 million in property damage.  The size of the recorded hailstones ranged from 0.75 inches to 3 inches.  No deaths, injuries or crop damages have ever been reported in Mecklenburg County as a result of hailstorm activity.[9]

 

Table 5.7: Hail Activity in Mecklenburg County (1950-20092014)

LOCATION

TOTAL NUMBER OF EVENTS

MAXIMUM HAIL SIZE
(INCHES)

MINIMUM HAIL SIZE
(INCHES)

AVERAGE SIZE

(INCHES)

Mecklenburg

7094

3.00

0.75

1.08

Charlotte

5056

2.50

0.75

1.01

Cornelius

6

1.75

0.75

1.29

Davidson

2

1.00

0.75

0.88

Huntersville

712

1.00

0.75

0.80

Matthews

1113

1.75

0.75

1.02

Mint Hill

812

2.00

0.75

1.24

Pineville

610

1.75

0.75

0.98

TOTAL

160205

3.00

0.75

1.04

Source: National Climatic Data Center

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Severe thunderstorms will remain a highly likely occurrence for Mecklenburg County (100% annual probability).  Lightning and hail may also be experienced in the area due to such storms. 

 

 

 

TORNADOES

 

When compared with other states, North Carolina ranks 22nd in number of tornado events, 20th in tornado deaths, 17th in tornado injuries and 21st in damages.  These rankings are based upon data collected for all states and territories for tornado events between 1950 and 2003.  According to the State Climate Office of North Carolina, most (43 percent) of tornado occurrences in North Carolina are minimal (F0) in intensity, followed F1 (37 percent).[10] 

 

Figure 5.5 illustrates the approximate location where confirmed tornadoes have touched down in Mecklenburg County (and for those with end locations, the approximate tracks) according to historical tornado data collected from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through 20092014, and according to their intensity classification on the Fujita scale. (The two new tornado hazard occurrences since the 2010 plan update are highlighted with black borders around the map symbols.)


 


Figure 5.5: Tornado Occurrences in Mecklenburg County

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

According to National Climatic Data Center records, Mecklenburg County experienced 20 22 tornado events from 1950 through August October of 20092014, causing no deaths, 19 23 injuries and approximately $3.95.4 million in property damage (Table 5.8).  The majority (50%) of these events were classified as F1 tornadoes, with the remaining 50% split evenly between F0 and F2.  The most significant recorded event occurred on March 10, 1992 when an F2 tornado touched down in the late evening hours, was on the ground for 3.4 miles with a reported width of 180 yards, and caused 18 injuries and $2.5 million in damages.  No additional information on this event (outside of NCDC records) was found.

 

Table 5.8: Tornado Events in Mecklenburg County (1950-2009)

LOCATION

DATE OF OCCURRENCE

MAGNITUDE

DEATHS/

INJURIES

PROPERTY DAMAGE

DETAILS

Mecklenburg

02/18/1960

F1

0/0

$3,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

04/12/1961

F1

0/0

$25,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

08/10/1964

F1

0/0

NR[11]

No details available.

Mecklenburg

09/12/1965

F2

0/0

$25,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

06/07/1968

F2

0/0

$25,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

05/28/1973

F2

0/0

$250,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

05/28/1973

F1

0/1

$250,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

10/08/1975

F1

0/0

$25,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

09/16/1977

F1

0/0

$25,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

08/14/1978

F0

0/0

$3,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

05/03/1984

F1

0/0

$250,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

06/06/1985

F0

0/0

$250,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

11/28/1990

F1

0/0

$25,000

No details available.

Mecklenburg

03/10/1992

F2

0/18

$2,500,000

No details available.

Mint Hill

03/20/1998

F0

0/0

NR

A weak, short-lived tornado was observed by a woman in Mint Hill to briefly touchdown in front of her stopped car.  Tornado damage was confined to trees and power lines.

Cornelius

05/07/1998

F0

0/0

$50,000

A waterspout/tornado crossed Lake Norman from neighboring Lincoln County and moved through Cornelius.  The roof of a grocery store was damaged and debris from the store damaged cars and other buildings across the street at a dealership.

Pineville

08/01/1999

F0

0/0

NR

A citizen near Pineville reported twin gustnadoes separated by 30 seconds, which spun up along the gust front of one of the severe thunderstorms.  The wind from the gustnadoes pinned the man against the outside wall of his home, chewed up tree limbs and downed a few trees, and threw a 40 foot section of a tree over his house.  A neighbor measured the wind associated with the first gustnado at 70 mph with a hand held anemometer.

14 Miles Southwest of Charlotte

09/07/2004

F2

0/0

$150,000

This tornado produced widespread damage to trees and power lines along its two-mile path across the southwest corner of Mecklenburg County.  The roof of a well-constructed home was blown off, and several other homes incurred shingle damage.  There was additional damage to automobiles and homes due to fallen trees.

Charlotte

03/08/2005

F1

0/0

$50,000

A weak tornado developed within a squall line as it moved over the Charlotte metropolitan area.  The tornado developed near the intersection of 36th and North Tryon streets, where the roof of a building was torn off.  In the same general area, the roofs of two trailers were partially torn off.  Intermittent tree damage occurred along most of the remaining three miles of the track, with some trees falling on vehicles.  At the end of the track, the roof was damaged and some windows blown out when a large oak tree fell on Cochrane Middle School.  The roof cover was torn off of a business and some large pine trees and limbs were blown down just south of the school.

Mecklenburg

05/09/2008

F1

0/0

NR

A mini-supercell thunderstorm produced a tornado with a nearly 20-mile path through the Gastonia and Charlotte metro areas during the early morning hours.  It produced damage to several structures in extreme eastern Gaston County before moving into Mecklenburg County, where the track became more intermittent.  The public reporting several large trees blown down in the area around Woodlyn Drive in Northwest Charlotte.  The path ended in the Beatties Ford Road area north of Charlotte, where an outbuilding was lifted and blown 20 to 30 feet and two large dumpsters were overturned.

Wilgrove

03/03/2012

EF2

0/4

$1,500,000

An NWS Storm Survey found the path of a strong tornado that developed rapidly over eastern portions of the Charlotte metro area during the early morning hours of March 3rd. The tornado touched down near the intersection of Dulin Creek Rd and Little Whiteoak Rd, moving just south of Plaza Rd extension. The tornado affected two subdivisions in Mecklenburg County. Four homes slid off their foundations and were completely destroyed. Twenty-nine homes were rendered uninhabitable from collapsed exterior walls. A total of 162 homes were damaged in the county. Four people were injured in this area. The tornado crossed I-485, just south of Plaza Rd Extension before moving into Cabarrus County. The total path length in Mecklenburg County was a little over 1.5 miles, while the maximum width was 200 yards.

Charlotte

05/15/2014

EF0

0/0

$10,000

Emergency managers' survey indicated a short tornado track on the south side of Charlotte. The tornado touched down at the end of Arrowpoint Blvd , where some siding was peeled off an industrial office building. The tornado tracked north/northeast along Arrowpoint Blvd, blowing down trees, tossing a large awning, and tearing a glass panel from another industrial office building. The tornado then crossed Arrowood Rd within a half mile of I-77, where more than a dozen additional trees were blown down and the tops blown out of other trees. The tornado lifted in a wooded area just north/northeast of this point.

TOTAL

 

 

0/1923

$3,906,0005,416,000

 

Source: National Climatic Data Center

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

It is likely that Mecklenburg County will continue to experience weak to moderately intense tornadoes.  Based on historical data, the annual probability for tornado events (F0 to F2 intensity) across the county is estimated to be 41 percent.  It is unlikely that very strong tornadoes (F3, F4 or F5) will strike the area, though it does remain possible.

 

 

 

WINTER STORMS

 

Mecklenburg County has been impacted by varying degrees of snow storms and ice storms over the last century; however, the occurrence of severe winter storms in the county is intermittent.  In terms of receiving measurable snowfall, the National Climatic Data Center estimates that there is statistically an 84.9 percent probability that Mecklenburg County (Charlotte Douglas International Airport weather station) will receive measurable snowfall in any given year; an 87 percent probability in winter; and a 29.1 percent probability in spring.  The month of January has the highest single probability at 54.5 percent, with February a close second (49.1 percent).  December has a 23.6 percent probability of receiving measurable snowfall.  Measurable snowfall has typically occurred between December and March.  The snowiest winter on record was in 1960, when a cumulative total of approximately 22.9 inches of snow fell (November through April).

 

The primary concern with severe winter storms in Mecklenburg County is the impacts of widespread power outages (including business interruption and potential life/safety threats associated with the loss of power – most notably home heating during cold weather), as well as the negative impacts to transportation infrastructure that can cause disruptions to mobility and an increased potential for traffic accidents, a leading cause of fatalities reported for winter storm events.

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

According to the National Climatic Data Center, Mecklenburg County has experienced 38 51 significant winter storm events including snow and ice storms, extreme cold, and freezing rain since January 1994 (Table 5.9).  These events account for a recorded estimate of $112 million in property damages for the affected areas, which includes multiple counties including Mecklenburg County in most instances.  Mecklenburg County received presidential disaster declarations from major winter storms in 1996, 2000 and 2002. It is also important to consider that recorded property damages understate the true impact and cost to local governments wrought by severe winter storms as these figures do not include the expenses of snow removal, debris clean-up and the loss of electrical power which are often very significant.

 

The “1996 Blizzard” from January 6 to January 8, 1996 affected much of the eastern seaboard.  In North Carolina, the winter storm claimed five deaths and left up to 30 inches of snow in portions of the state.  In Mecklenburg County, rain gradually changed to freezing rain and then to snow and sleet.  The layer of ice under the 3 to 4 inches of snow caused serious traffic problems.  The ice accumulation caused widespread power outages around the Charlotte metro area and numerous traffic accidents were reported.

 

Five winter storms hit North Carolina from January 18 to January 29, 2000.  More than 25 inches of snow and icy conditions were reported across central portions of the state, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency.  One state meteorologist considered the storm to be a 100-year event.  Heavy snow and freezing rain were heavy enough across the southern Piedmont, including the Charlotte area, to result in a 1/4 to 1/2-inch glaze and downed trees and power lines.  Nearly 127,000 people in North Carolina were without power early January 19th, with more cold weather in the forecast.  Shelters were opened in Charlotte where about 40,000 people were without power and heat.  Dozens of cars were stranded on a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 85.  At the height of the storm, more than 399,000 North Carolina customers were without power and schools were closed across affected areas.  A total of 31 counties in North Carolina including Mecklenburg County received $12 million in federal assistance for snow removal and public infrastructure recovery.

 

The 2002 December Ice Storm paralyzed central parts of North Carolina with ice, snow and freezing rain, leaving 1.3 million customers without power and blocking streets with snapped tree limbs.  Total cleanup and response costs have been estimated at $97 million.  Forty-three counties in North Carolina, including Mecklenburg County, were declared for federal assistance.  According to Duke Energy, the number of outages exceeded the power loss experienced after Hurricane Hugo hit Mecklenburg County in 1989.  Of the 1.3 million customers affected, 285,000 lived in the Charlotte area with some being without power for 10 days or more.  Twenty-seven patients were treated and released for carbon monoxide poisoning in the Charlotte area after bringing grills inside for use as heaters.  The American Red Cross opened several public shelters, including public schools, the Charlotte Coliseum, and the Convention Center to accommodate more than 600 people in the Charlotte area.  More than 100 roads, mostly residential and secondary roads, were closed or blocked because of downed power lines or debris in the roadway.

 

Table 5.9: Winter Storm Activity in Mecklenburg County (1998-2004)

LOCATION

DATE OF OCCURRENCE

TYPE OF EVENT

PROPERTY DAMAGE

DETAILS

Statewide including Mecklenburg County

02/10/1994

Ice Storm

NR[12]

A strong cold front brought a surge of arctic air into North Carolina on the 10th and plunged temperatures 40 to 50 degrees from readings the previous day to below freezing.  Low pressure developed along the front causing widespread sleet and freezing rain across northern portions of the state.  The greatest ice accumulation of 1 to 2 inches and associated damages to trees and power lines occurred in the northern Piedmont.  Elsewhere in northern interior portions of the state, ice accumulations ranged from 1/4 inch to 1 inch.  Numerous motor vehicle accidents were also reported.

4 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/06/1996

Winter Storm

NR

Rain gradually changed to freezing rain and then snow and sleet across the southern Piedmont.  The precipitation continued well into the next day.  The layer of ice under the 1 to 2 inches of snow (3 to 4 inches in neighboring Gaston County) caused serious traffic problems.  The ice accumulation was enough to cause widespread power outages around the Charlotte metro area.  Across central North Carolina, numerous traffic accidents were reported.  There were numerous indirect injuries and a few fatalities associated with the storm.  Most injuries and deaths were traffic related.

25 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/11/1996

Winter Storm

NR

In the Piedmont, there was more of a mixture of ice with minimal ice storm conditions reported in and around the Charlotte area.  There were some power outages and numerous traffic accidents.

8 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/02/1996

Ice Storm

$1,250,000

Frozen rain fell in most of the Piedmont.  Bridges and overpasses quickly became icy with numerous problems reported on highways and streets.  Rain was falling so heavily that not much was accumulating as ice.  However, by about noon ice storm conditions began to develop quickly with numerous power outages reported.  Areas west and north of Charlotte were hardest hit.  Damage estimates for this major ice storm are a broad estimate and are not reliable.  Road repair/cleanup costs in North Carolina exceeded $20 million.  Numerous traffic accidents caused many injuries and some indirect fatalities.

14 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/03/1996

Snow

NR

Light snow accumulated to 1 to 3 inches on top of the ice.  Travel problems worsened in some places.

Mecklenburg County

02/04/1996

Extreme Cold

NR

A homeless man on the streets of Charlotte died from exposure/ hypothermia.

14 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/16/1996

Snow

NR

Snow fell and accumulated to several inches.

11 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/13/1997

Ice Storm

NR

A winter storm brought a variety of weather woes to central North Carolina.  Several inches of snow fell in parts of the Piedmont with up to 3 1/2 inches around Cherryville.  In the Piedmont, the snow changed to a sleet storm during the afternoon with several inches of accumulation.  Around Charlotte freezing rain during the evening caused scattered power outages.

29 Counties including Mecklenburg County

04/01/1997

Cold

NR

Several cold snaps following the relatively warm late winter caused temperatures to dip well into the 20s at times yielding substantial damage to the apple crop and perhaps to other crops.

7 Counties including Mecklenburg County

12/29/1997

Snow

NR

Snow moved north across the Piedmont during the morning and became heavy north and west of the Charlotte area before ending in the middle of the afternoon.  Snowfall ranged between 1 and 4 inches across the southern Piedmont, to 4 to 8 inches across the northwest Piedmont.  There were hundreds of traffic accidents.

4 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/19/1998

Snow

NR

A wet snow fell at a steady rate early in the morning across the southern Piedmont, including the Charlotte metro area.  Despite temperatures hovering just above freezing, the snow accumulated to between 1 and 3 inches.

21 Counties including Mecklenburg County

12/23/1998

Freezing Rain/ sleet

NR

Freezing rain and some sleet developed early Wednesday morning and persisted through the morning of Christmas Eve.  Some areas later received enough glaze to cause damage.

2 Counties including Mecklenburg County

12/24/1998

Ice Storm

NR

Freezing rain built a glaze to damaging levels by sunrise and many power outages continued to occur until late morning.  Power was not restored to some places until the next morning.

16 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/19/1999

Snow

NR

A surface low moving across central Georgia and South Carolina combined with a strong upper level system to produce light snow across much of North Carolina during the afternoon. Most accumulations were between 1 and 2 inches.

9 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/18/2000

Snow

NR

Low pressure moved east across Tennessee and weakened as it ran into a surface high pressure ridge along the East Coast.  Enough moisture was available to cause heavy snow to fall across the northwest Piedmont.  Precipitation began as light rain in the mid-evening hours on the 17th, but quickly turned to snow as the atmosphere cooled to below freezing.  Snowfall ranged between 3 and 6 inches across the area by noon on the 18th, with a narrow band of 1 to 3 inches of accumulation of snow and sleet to the immediate south.

28 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/22/2000

Heavy Snow

NR

Snow became heavy by evening across the Piedmont.  Generally, 4 to 6 inches of snow fell across the Piedmont, with a local maximum of 7 inches in neighboring Lincoln County.  Freezing rain and sleet mixed with the snow for a short time before the precipitation ended, and for the most part, caused little additional problems.

6 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/24/2000

Heavy Snow

NR

Low pressure rapidly deepened near the North Carolina coast, wrapping abundant moisture back across the Piedmont.  Snow fell all day and into the night, heavy at times south and east of Interstate 85.  By the time snow ended, accumulations ranged from a trace to 4 inches to the immediate north and west of Interstate 85, to 4 to 8 inches in Charlotte, and 10 to 14 inches across southeastern Mecklenburg County.  This storm followed no more than 36 hours after the area received several inches of snow and ice from a previous storm over the weekend.

14 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/29/2000

Ice Storm

NR

Weakening low pressure in the Ohio River Valley, developing low pressure along the Gulf Coast and cold, arctic air in place across the Carolinas resulted in a wintry mess across parts of North Carolina.  This was the last in a series of five winter storms that wreaked havoc on North Carolina in an 11-day span.  Across the Piedmont, precipitation that briefly began as some light sleet and snow turned quickly to freezing rain.  The freezing rain was heavy enough across the southern Piedmont, including the Charlotte area, to result in a 1/4 to 1/2 inch glaze.  Scattered power outages resulted.  The entire Duke Power system reported 77,000 people without power.

29 Counties including Mecklenburg County

11/19/2000

Snow

NR

Light to moderate snow started in the mountains and spread southeast, lasting through the day.  Generally 1 to 3 inches of snow fell.

29 Counties including Mecklenburg County

12/01/2000

Extreme Cold

NR

December 2000 will long be remembered for the brutal hold that cold weather had on the region.  Temperatures ran 6 to 8 degrees below normal for the entire month.  At Charlotte, it was the coldest month in 83 years.

2 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/02/2002

Heavy Snow

NR

Heavy snow started falling early in the evening and reached heavy snowfall accumulation status between 8 p.m. and midnight in this part of the Piedmont.

7 Counties including Mecklenburg County

12/04/2002

Ice Storm

$14,142,857

Freezing rain began over the extreme southern mountains of North Carolina during the early afternoon on the 4th, and spread into the southwest Piedmont by mid-afternoon.  Resultant damage due to ice accumulation began during the mid-to-late afternoon.  The intensity of the freezing rain increased after midnight, and by sunrise on the 5th, devastating ice accumulations of 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches were observed.  The hardest hit area was the Charlotte metro area.  Hundreds of thousands lost power, and the outages lasted for as long as 2 weeks in some areas.

12 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/16/2003

Winter Weather/mix

NR

Light snow fell during the evening across portions of the Piedmont of North Carolina and accumulated to 1 to 2 inches.  Numerous traffic accidents were reported.

4 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/23/2003

Heavy Snow

NR

Light snow began around midnight in the southwest Piedmont of North Carolina.  A burst of heavy snow during the pre-dawn hours resulted in total accumulations of 3 to 8 inches by mid-morning.

18 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/27/2003

Winter Weather/mix

NR

A light freezing rain developed during the overnight hours in areas from the Blue Ridge Mountains eastward to the I-77 corridor.  Light ice accumulations were mainly confined to trees, bushes and automobiles.  However, some slick spots did develop on bridges and overpasses, especially in the Piedmont.

12 Counties including Mecklenburg County

12/04/2003

Winter Weather/mix

NR

Light freezing rain and sleet fell for much of the day, resulting in ice accretion on trees and power lines of generally 1/8 inch or less.  Some icy spots developed on bridges and overpasses.

7 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/27/2004

Winter Weather/mix

NR

Light freezing rain developed during the early morning hours of the 27th across the southwest Piedmont.  This added an additional layer of glaze to the mixture of sleet and ice that was already present.  The layer of ice was as thick as 2 inches in some areas.  Hundreds of traffic accidents occurred overnight and into the morning rush hour.  Many of the accidents involved injuries and some fatalities.  The ice was slow to melt, and traffic accidents continued for another two days.

16 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/26/2004

Heavy Snow

$193,750

Heavy snow began to fall across the Piedmont of North Carolina during the late morning.  Although snowfall intensity decreased dramatically during the early-to-middle portion of the afternoon, heavy snow redeveloped during the late afternoon and continued into the evening and overnight hours.  Scattered thunderstorms contributed to intense snowfall rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour from time to time, especially in the Piedmont, where total snowfall of 12 to 22 inches occurred.  The heaviest amounts occurred in the southwest Piedmont, particularly in southern portions of the Charlotte metro area.  Thousands of people were stranded on I-77 during the early afternoon, and some required rescue.  The weight of the snowfall caused damage to numerous roofs, while some roofs completely collapsed.

4 Counties including Mecklenburg County

1/29/2005

Winter Storm

NR

Up to an inch of snow fell across the area during the morning, but sleet and ice made the greatest impact.  Most locations received between 1/2 to 1 inch of sleet.  In addition, freezing rain deposited a glaze of ice over the sleet during the afternoon and evening, creating extremely dangerous driving conditions, and numerous accidents.

7 Counties including Mecklenburg County

12/15/2005

Ice Storm

$300,000

Ice accretion began to cause damage in the northwest piedmont of North Carolina by late morning.  Quite a few trees fell and power outages numbered in the tens of thousands.  Several trees and large limbs fell on and damaged homes and vehicles.  A 58 year-old male was killed when a tree fell through the roof of his home south of Kannapolis.  Total ice accumulation ranged from a half inch or more near and west of Interstate 77 to around an eighth of an inch further east toward the Triad.  Fortunately, traffic problems were few, as the temperature hovered right around freezing through the event, causing only a few slick spots.

19 Counties including Mecklenburg County

1/18/2007

Winter Weather

NR

Widespread light precipitation, mainly in the form of freezing rain, produced light ice accretion, mainly across the foothills and piedmont during the morning hours.  Accretion was mainly confined to elevated surfaces, although some slick spots developed on bridges and overpasses.  Quite a few traffic accidents occurred, especially in the Charlotte metro area and in the northern North Carolina foothills.  A few sporadic power outages were reported.

8 Counties including Mecklenburg County

1/16/2008

Winter Weather

NR

Light snow developed across the Piedmont during mid-evening, and continued through much of the overnight hours.  By mid-morning on the 17th, total accumulations ranged from around an inch south of I-85, to 3 inches or so along the I-40 corridor.  Sleet and freezing rain mixed in with the snow before the event ended.

5 Counties including Mecklenburg County

1/22/2008

Winter Weather

NR

Freezing drizzle and light freezing rain developed across the western Piedmont around sunrise.  Roads became very slick and hazardous, and there were numerous traffic accidents during the morning commute.

12 Counties including Mecklenburg County

1/20/2009

Winter Weather

NR

Snow developed across the foothills and western Piedmont of North Carolina.  The snow continued through the overnight hours before tapering off during the morning.  Total snowfall accumulations ranged from trace amounts across the North Carolina foothills, to 3 inches in the Charlotte metro area and surrounding locations.

5 Counties including Mecklenburg County

2/3/2009

Winter Weather

NR

A small area of snow developed across the piedmont during the evening, with some areas picking up a quick 2 inches before the snow tapered off.

11 Counties including Mecklenburg County

3/1/2009

Heavy Snow

NR

Rain changed to snow during the early evening across portions of the foothills and the western Piedmont of North Carolina.  Snow became heavy at times throughout the evening, and up to 4 inches had accumulated across the area by 10 pm.  Snow, heavy at times and accompanied by occasional lightning, continued into the late evening and early overnight hours.  By the time the snow tapered off, accumulations of 3-6 inches were common across the area.  However, localized amounts of up to 9 inches were reported, especially along a corridor extending from Shelby to Hickory.  The heavy wet snow caused quite a few trees and power lines to fall, resulting in numerous power outages.  Some structures received minor to moderate roof damage due to the weight of the snow.  Some customers were without power for several days.  Numerous traffic accidents also occurred.

5 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/29/2010

Winter Storm

NR

Low pressure tracked across southern Georgia during the night of the 29th, and then off the southeast cost on the 30th. Snow became heavy at times during the late evening, resulting in quick accumulation of snow. The snow gradually changed over to sleet overnight, before ending as freezing rain. Where precipitation fell mainly as snow, generally along and north of I-40, snow accumulation of 6-8 inches occurred. More sleet fell south near the I-85 corridor, with accumulations of 2 to 4 inches of sleet and snow being common. Light ice accumulation also occurred near the I-85 corridor. A 45-year-old man died in a single-vehicle accident near Cleveland in Rowan County (indirect). Also, nighttime refreezing of snow and ice resulted in several days of high traffic accident incidents. Another traffic fatality occurred near Cleveland on the morning of February 2, when a 26-year-old man died after hitting a patch of ice and colliding with another vehicle.

9 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/12/2010

Winter Storm

NR

Light snow developed during the evening rush across portions of the Carolina piedmont and southern foothills. The snow intensified through the evening, and began to quickly accumulate. By mid-evening, 1 to 3 inches of snowfall had occurred across the area. Numerous traffic accidents resulted, particularly in the Charlotte metro area. The snow continued until around midnight, with total accumulations of 2 to 4 inches across the area.

16 Counties including Mecklenburg County

03/02/2010

Winter Weather

NR

Snow, mixed with rain at times, quickly spread north and east across the western Carolinas shortly after sunrise. Despite bursts of moderate to heavy snow, a warm ground and above freezing temperatures caused much of the snow to melt upon impact. As a result, accumulations were light, ranging from trace an inch or so along the I-85 corridor, to 2-3 inches along the I-40 corridor.

31 Counties including Mecklenburg County

12/16/2010

Winter Weather

NR

Light precipitation fell across the mountains during the evening, and continued for much of the overnight. Precipitation mainly fell as freezing rain, although some areas saw a period of light accumulating snow at the onset. By late morning, most areas had received at least a trace of ice accretion, resulting in very slippery roads.

 Over the piedmont and foothills the majority of the precipitation fell as freezing rain and freezing drizzle. Most areas saw at least trace amounts of ice, with some areas along the I-40 corridor seeing as much as a tenth of an inch. Very hazardous driving conditions existed across the northern foothills and northwest Piedmont. Locations closer to I-85 only saw a light glaze on elevated surfaces and patchy slick spots on roads. Hundreds of traffic accidents were reported across the region. Temperatures warmed above freezing in most areas by late morning.

7 Counties including Mecklenburg County

12/25/2010

Heavy Snow

NR

A developing coastal storm brought a mix of light rain and snow to portions of the piedmont of western North Carolina during Christmas afternoon. By early evening, precipitation had changed to all snow in most areas northwest of Charlotte, and by late evening, these areas had experienced a rare white Christmas. Shortly after midnight, the precipitation had changed to all snow in the Charlotte metro area. Snow continued to fall steadily overnight, with areas northwest of Charlotte reporting heavy snowfall totals by midnight, with heavy totals not reached until shortly before sunrise along the I-85 corridor. Total accumulations ranged from 2 to 5 inches across the area by the time the snow tapered off to flurries and light snow showers later in the morning.

16 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/10/2011

Heavy Snow

NR

Moderate to heavy snow associated with a Gulf Coast storm system spread northward across the foothills and western piedmont of North Carolina during the early morning hours. The heavy snow accumulated quickly, and by sunrise parts of the southwest foothills and piedmont had received 4 inches of snow. The snow was lighter across the northern most foothills and piedmont, where only an inch or two of snow had fallen by mid-morning. The snow became lighter during the day, but continued to accumulate. By early afternoon, snowfall totals ranged from around 7 inches over the southern foothill and southwest piedmont locations, to around 3 inches over the northern most parts of the foothills and piedmont. During the afternoon, precipitation changed to light to moderate freezing rain, which continued into the evening hours. This added as much as a tenth to a quarter inch of ice to the heavy snowfall totals, resulting in sporadic power outages, particularly in the Charlotte metro area. Persistent cold air resulted in only gradual improvement in road conditions, with some businesses and schools remaining closed for several days.

27 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/25/2013

Winter Weather

NR

Light sleet developed across much of the western Carolinas and northeast Georgia during the morning. The intermittent sleet eventually changed to light freezing rain in most areas by late afternoon. Most areas north of the I-85 corridor saw measurable sleet, generally less than a quarter inch. A light glaze then fell on top of that, making for treacherous driving conditions during the afternoon. Most areas south of the I-85 corridor saw only trace accumulations, but that was enough to cause plenty of slick spots. Hundreds of accidents were reported across the area, especially along the I-85 corridor.

6 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/16/2013

Winter Weather

NR

Snow showers increased in coverage and intensity as they moved out of the foothills into the Piedmont during mid-afternoon. Snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour were common, especially near the North Carolina/South Carolina border. Occasional thunder and lightning were also observed in these areas. Despite the brief nature of the snowfall, widespread accumulations of 2 to 3 inches were seen across the area.

11 Counties including Mecklenburg County

11/26/2013

Winter Weather

NR

Light to moderate freezing rain developed across the Piedmont and foothills of the Carolinas, mainly north of I-85 and east of I-26, during the pre-dawn hours. Warm roads and temperatures right at freezing prevented much in the way of travel problems. However, many areas saw between 0.1 and 0.2 inch accumulation on trees and other elevated surfaces. Ice accumulation may have approached 1/4 inch across portions of Iredell County, where a few trees were reportedly brought down by ice. Warming temperatures forced a transition to rain by late morning.

13 Counties including Mecklenburg County

01/28/2014

Winter Weather

NR

Light snow developed over the Piedmont and foothills of the Western Carolinas and northeast Georgia during the afternoon and continued into the evening before tapering off. The snow initially melted on roads. However, air temperatures rapidly cooling into the 20s caused many roads to subsequently freeze. Although snowfall totals were light, ranging from 1 to 2 inches of less in most areas, the slick roads caused hundreds of traffic accidents.

3 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/11/2014

Winter Weather

NR

Light to occasionally moderate snow began to overspread the extreme southern Piedmont of North Carolina around mid morning and continued off and on through the day. By mid-evening, total accumulations ranged from 1 to 3 inches across much of the area, although isolated 4 inch amounts were reported. Warm road temperatures yielded little in the way of travel problems.

2 Counties including Mecklenburg County

02/12/2014

Winter Storm

NR

A Miller type-A low pressure system moved up along the South Carolina coast bringing widespread snow, which by late afternoon began to change to sleet and freezing rain. Precipitation eventually changed back to snow before ending during the morning of the 13th. Most areas saw 3-6 inches of snow and sleet. Meanwhile, a band of heavy snowfall that developed during the morning of the 13th produced additional heavy accumulations on the east and north side of Charlotte, where storm total amounts ranged from 10-12 inches.

4 Counties including Mecklenburg County

03/17/2014

Winter Weather

NR

Sub-freezing air that gradually oozed south across the North Carolina Piedmont caused light rain to change to freezing rain during the early afternoon along the I-85 corridor. By late evening, many areas reported around 0.10 inch of ice accretion, with pockets of higher amounts. Most of the ice accretion was on elevated surfaces and warm roads prevented significant travel problems, although a few slick spots and accidents were reported. The freezing rain tapered off to freezing drizzle during the evening of the 17th, but even this continued through the night in some areas.

TOTAL

 

 

$15,629,464[13]

 

Source: National Climatic Data Center

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Winter storms will remain a likely occurrence for Mecklenburg County.  While most storms will be more likely to produce small amounts of snow, sleet or freezing rain with minimal impacts in terms of property damage, larger storms, though less frequent in occurrence, may also occur with more significant impacts to the area.


 

EARTHQUAKES

 

While there are no active fault zones in North Carolina, Mecklenburg County is affected by the New Madrid (Missouri), Eastern Tennessee, Giles County, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina Seismic Zones.  During the last 200 years, major faults in both the New Madrid and Charleston seismic zones have generated earthquakes measuring greater than 8 on the Richter Scale and causing ground shaking events in Mecklenburg County.[14]  Figure 5.6 shows the location of ancient (and inactive) fault lines and the location of historical earthquake epicenters in North Carolina between 1698 and 1997.  The state has had its share of earthquakes, but large, damaging seismic events are infrequent – most are relatively small, random and scattered events.  Approximately two-thirds of North Carolina is subject to earthquakes, with the western and southeast regions the most vulnerable to a very damaging earthquake. 

 


Figure 5.6: Earthquake Epicenters in North Carolina (1698-1997)

 

 

Figure 5.7 shows the earthquake intensity level associated with Mecklenburg County relative to regional hazard susceptibility, based on the national U.S. Geological Survey map of peak acceleration with 10 percent probability of exceedance in 50 years.[15]  According to this data, Mecklenburg County is in a moderate risk zone, with a peak ground acceleration value (%g) of 5.

 


 


Figure 5.7: Peak Acceleration with 10 Percent Probability of Exceedance in 50 Years

 

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

Table 5.10 lists the 16 significant earthquake events that have impacted Mecklenburg County as compiled from National Geophysical Data Center records for the period 1638 to 1985 according to database queries for all participating jurisdictions using “city name”.  This includes data on the intensity of each event as felt locally in Mecklenburg County.  Of particular note, on December 13, 1879, a minor earthquake awakened residents in Charlotte, Pineville and surrounding communities, but no property damage or injuries were reported.  The most severe property damage in North Carolina ever attributed to an earthquake was caused by the 1886 Charleston earthquake.  Severe property damage occurred within a 160-kilometer radius of Charleston including the southeast portion of North Carolina.  Several communities, including Charlotte, reportedly had chimneys thrown down, fallen plaster and cracked walls. 

 

While not listed in the table, the great earthquakes of 1811-1812 centered on the Mississippi Valley near New Madrid, Missouri were felt throughout North Carolina.  The North Carolina Geological Survey reports that MMI VI effects were observed in the western part of the state. The relatively small amount of damage in North Carolina associated with the event is attributed to the low population density of the area at that time.

 

Table 5.10: Significant Seismic Events in Mecklenburg County

LOCATION

DATE OF OCCURRENCE

MMI[16]

DISTANCE FROM EPICENTER (MILES)

Charlotte

12/13/1879

5

4

Pineville

12/13/1879

5

14

Charlotte

09/01/1886

8

270

Pineville

09/01/1886

4

256

Charlotte

11/25/1898

4

N/A

Charlotte

02/21/1916

5

153

Charlotte

10/20/1924

2

162

Charlotte

11/3/1928

4

180

Charlotte

12/23/1928

3

N/A

Charlotte

07/26/1945

4

101

Charlotte

11/20/1969

5

241

Cornelius

11/20/1969

3

213

Matthews

11/20/1969

3

254

Pineville

11/20/1969

3

257

Davidson

11/22/1974

4

296

Charlotte

09/13/1976

2

152

Source: National Geophysical Data Center

 

For the 2015 plan update, the NGDC Global Significant Earthquake Database, 2150 B.C. to present was also consulted to determine if any earthquake events have impacted the planning area since the 1985 study. No records were found for the state of North Carolina, including Mecklenburg County.

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Earthquakes of significant magnitude are unlikely occurrences for Mecklenburg County, though the proximity of the area to major faults in several active seismic zones could increase the possibility of feeling some impact of a large, regional earthquake if it were to occur within those zones.  The potential for ground shaking caused by events in these zones is well documented, and modern building codes do take them into account for today’s design and construction standards.  Those buildings, infrastructure and assets built long ago and not constructed to these codes are most susceptible to damage during future earthquake events.


 

LANDSLIDES

 

Figure 5.8 shows general indication of areas that may be susceptible to landslides according to the United States Geological Survey, though these geographic delineations are based on nationally mapping and not recommended for local planning or analysis purposes.  More refined and detailed landslide hazard maps are produced for North Carolina communities through the North Carolina Geological Survey (NCGS), however to date Mecklenburg County has not been studied.[17]  While better local spatial data on landslide hazards is not currently available for Mecklenburg County, it is assumed that minor landslide events are possible in localized, steep-sloped areas during extremely wet conditions.

 

According to NCGS, landslides are most common in the mountain region of North Carolina because of steep slopes. The Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions also have landslides that are commonly related to human activity such as making a road cut too steep.  Large rainstorms, hurricanes, freeze-thaw processes and human activities all can trigger landslides.

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

There is no history of significant landslide events in Mecklenburg County.

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Landslides remain a possible occurrence in localized areas of Mecklenburg County, but impacts from such events would likely cause minimal localized damage.


 


Figure 5.8: Landslide Incidence and Susceptibility

 


 

SINKHOLES

 

Existing soil types in Mecklenburg County are not conducive to the formation of natural sinkholes.  There is a higher potential for soil piping and/or erosion caused by leakage from drainage pipes, collapsed water mains or sewer lines, failed culverts and the effects of other human infrastructure activity.

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

Mecklenburg County has experienced minor sinkhole activity in the past; however, these events are very uncommon occurrences and very few have caused any reported property damages.  The most recent significant incident was reported in June 2003 when heavy rain formed a 150-foot wide sinkhole in the parking lot of a hotel located on Independence Boulevard.  A giant steel pipe could not hold all the rainwater from heavy rain and the pipe gave way and the parking lot collapsed.  It caused damages to a passenger car and resulted in approximately $500,000 in repair costs.  According to the county engineer, sinkholes of that magnitude are very uncommon.  However, many pipes underneath the ground could form cracks due to age and over time leaks could erode the dirt and soil around it. 

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Sinkholes remain a possible occurrence in localized areas of Mecklenburg County, though primarily as caused by human activity versus a naturally occurring event.  This is particularly the case in areas of the county with older water and sewer lines that are prone to possible leakage or collapse, though Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility crews continuously examine underground pipes for problems and spend approximately $15 million each year to maintain and repair water and sewer lines.  Impacts from such events would likely cause minimal localized damage, though potentially significant service interruptions caused by infrastructure damage and road closures.

 


 

DROUGHT

 

According to the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) illustrated in Section 4: Hazard Identification (Figure 4.4), Mecklenburg County is located in a region that experienced severe drought conditions less than 10 percent of the 100-year period during 1895 to 1995, meaning that severe long-term drought conditions are a relatively low probability event for Mecklenburg County.  However, based on historical event data, shorter term droughts of less severity are more common and may occur several times in a decade.

 

While Mecklenburg County doesn’t have nearly the amount of agriculture-based businesses as other counties in North Carolina, the regional impacts of long-term drought conditions are felt locally.  In addition to the negative effects on agriculture, lower lake levels, reduced streamflows and decreases in groundwater supply can result in the drying up of wells and often necessitate mandatory water restrictions for all areas of the county, including those urbanized communities.

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

In recent years, all of western North Carolina has experienced severe to extreme drought conditions.  Since 1998, the National Climatic Data Center has recorded 34 instances of drought in Mecklenburg County (Table 5.11).[18]  Though instances are recorded on a monthly basis by the National Climatic Data Center, events are usually part of ongoing drought conditions that last several months or years.  This was certainly the case for Mecklenburg County which endured what can be classified as multiple drought periods in 1998-2002 (severe to extreme), Spring 2004 (moderate), and 2007-2008 (severe to extreme).  None of these events resulted in any deaths or injuries, and no damages to property or crops were recorded for Mecklenburg County.[19]  However, according to some NCDC reports, agricultural and other losses attributed to the long-term drought in western North Carolina are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  In addition, these droughts resulted in near record lows for stream flows, reservoirs and groundwater levels and the implementation of mandatory water restrictions across the area.

 

Of particular note, Mecklenburg County received a USDA agricultural disaster declaration in July 2002 along with 72 other counties in North Carolina due to long-term drought conditions.  According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCAGR), agricultural losses exceeded a total of $170 million for the state.  The NCAGR estimated that crop losses in some of the affected counties were as high as 75 to 80 percent.  This agricultural disaster declaration makes farmers eligible for USDA low interest emergency farm loans.  Lastly, according to the National Climatic Data Center, there have been no occurrences of prolonged extreme heat events in Mecklenburg County that are sometimes a hazardous element of drought conditions.

 

Table 5.11: Occurrences of Drought in Mecklenburg County (1998-2004)

LOCATION

DATE OF OCCURRENCE

DETAILS

Countywide

07/01/1998

Dry weather continued through much of the month of July, affecting crops during the critical part of the growing season.  Corn and other vegetables sustained the most damage, but a dollar amount was not available at the time of this writing.

Countywide

10/01/1998

The drought that began during the summer continued through October.  The only significant rainfall during the month occurred on the 7th and 8th.  Cities and counties began to restrict water usage and stream flows for several mountain locations were reduced to the lowest seen in 50 years.

Countywide

11/01/1998

Dry weather persisted into the late fall with rainfall deficits between 5 and 10 inches.  This affected late season crops and caused water shortages.  Water usage restrictions were initiated in many communities.

Countywide

07/01/1999

A long-term dry spell became a drought in July.  Without any widespread rain events, the only relief came in the form of rare, widely scattered afternoon and evening thunderstorms.  The lack of rainfall lowered water tables significantly and significant damage to crops began to occur.  The northwest Piedmont was affected first, followed by the southern Piedmont.

Countywide

08/01/1999

The drought worsened during the month of August as high evaporation rates and little rainfall occurred.  The most severe conditions by the end of the month had developed in the Piedmont.  Water restrictions began in several communities, and for some, the first time in memory.  Hay and late crops dried up in many counties.  Ponds and wells began to dry up as well, affecting homeowners, farmers and businesses such as nurseries.  In addition, boaters were running aground on recreational lakes due to low water levels.

Countywide

09/01/1999

Rainfall continued to be scarce across portions of North Carolina through the month of September, prolonging the drought conditions that existed all summer.  However, some areas in the Piedmont picked up some rain from the remnants of Hurricane Dennis early in the month and from Hurricane Floyd itself two weeks later.  Although this rain brought some relief, more wells ran dry and many more areas began mandatory water restrictions.

Countywide

10/01/1999

The return of some rainfall as well as lower evaporation rates due to the change of seasons resulted in the drought easing somewhat.  Drought classifications were lowered in some cases, and some jurisdictions lifted water restrictions.  However, the drought had not ended by the end of the month.

Countywide

08/01/2000

The two-year drought was reaching a critical stage by late summer.  Many 80 to 100-foot wells were going dry.  Area lakes were at record low levels causing property damage to docks, boats, etc.

Countywide

09/01/2000

Overall, drought conditions continued across portions of North Carolina despite some locations receiving near their month's average rainfall.  Low stream flow and municipal water supply remained the largest issues with many cities and towns enacting water restrictions.  Citizens were quoted as saying this is the driest they had ever seen it.  Despite the drought conditions, impact on crops seemed to be minimal.

Countywide

10/01/2000

Effects of the drought intensified, as many areas received absolutely no rain during the month setting records for the longest stretch without measurable rainfall in several locations.  Wells and some streams continued to dry up and lake levels continued to drop.  Many communities were forced to start more stringent water conservation measures.

Countywide

11/01/2000

The long-term drought continued to affect the region.  Rainfall during the month was near or slightly above normal, but this had little effect on the ground water levels.  Numerous wells dried up during the fall, and well borers and drillers could not keep up with the demand.  Large lakes reported record low levels and some communities continued or initiated water control measures.

Countywide

02/01/2001

The long-term drought's impact became more severe, even during the winter, as water levels in lakes dropped and stream flow on rivers reached the lowest in memory.  More and more communities began water restrictions and started preparing for a busy fire weather season.

Countywide

03/01/2001

Despite beneficial rain during March, the drought continued to grip most of the area.  Severe water restrictions were implemented in parts of the Piedmont, where reservoirs had dropped to all-time low levels. 

Countywide

04/01/2001

Some relief to the long-term drought occurred at mid-month, but for the most part, the rainfall deficit for the three-year period actually grew larger by the end of April.  Mandatory water restrictions continued at some locations, with voluntary water restrictions urged at many others.  Numerous wells went dry during April.

Countywide

05/01/2001

Unprecedented drought conditions continued.  Some rivers and lakes reached record-low levels.  Well-drilling companies in the Piedmont were recording twice as much business as usual.

Countywide

08/01/2001

The effects of the long-term drought became more severe, especially in the Piedmont.  Critical water conditions were beginning to concern officials and residents of Charlotte.

Countywide

11/01/2001

Drought was again the major concern during November.  An extended short-term dry spell exacerbated the 3.5-year drought, beginning in mid October and persisting through late November.  During that stretch of weeks, many areas received no measurable rainfall.  Toward the end of the month, wildfires became common, burning many acres especially in the higher terrain.  Extremely low lake levels affected boating and water supplies.  The Piedmont had received about half the normal rainfall for the calendar year by the end of November.  Many additional wells and ponds dried up, tree farms closed and many communities began or expanded water restrictions.  Streams were observed with record low flow levels.

Countywide

12/01/2001

Very little active weather during December signaled that the drought was still present—and becoming critically important to more and more people.  The Charlotte area recorded an all-time record dry calendar year with just 26.23 inches of rainfall during 2001.  Records have been kept in the area since 1878.  Many communities initiated either mandatory or voluntary water restrictions.

Countywide

08/01/2002

The water supply situation reached crisis levels in some communities, as the effects of the long-term drought continued to plague North Carolina.  Particularly hard hit were several Piedmont communities along the Interstate 77 corridor.  Water levels on area lakes were as much as 10 feet below full pond.  Most of the larger cities and towns along the I-77 corridor had imposed mandatory water restrictions by the end of the month, including the Charlotte metro area.

Countywide

5/1/2004

A period of dry weather that began in August of 2003 resulted in moderate drought conditions across portions of western North Carolina by late spring of 2004. Streamflow and lake levels began to run below normal, and a few communities instituted water restrictions.

Countywide

5/1/2007

The effects of an extended period of dry weather were exacerbated by an abnormally dry May, with many locations reporting one of the driest Mays in recorded history.  By the end of May, many climatological stations were reporting yearly rainfall deficits as high as 10 inches.  The result was severe to extreme drought conditions across much of western North Carolina by the end of the month.  Water restrictions were implemented in some counties across extreme western North Carolina.  The very dry conditions added to agriculture hardships caused by a hard freeze and widespread damaging winds in April.

Countywide

6/1/2007

Despite an increase in thunderstorm activity, drought conditions persisted across much of western North Carolina.  The persistent drought continued to cause hardships to agricultural interests that were still recuperating from the April freeze.  

Countywide

7/1/2007

Drought conditions persisted across much of western North Carolina during July.  By the end of July, voluntary water restrictions were instituted in almost all North Carolina counties along and west of I-77.  Agricultural interests continued to be especially hard hit.  The absence of rain negatively affected the hay crop, creating concern for the loss of livestock.

Countywide

8/1/2007

Severe to extreme drought conditions persisted across much of western North Carolina during August.  Stream flows and groundwater levels approached record low levels.  Water levels on some reservoirs decreased by as much as 1 foot every 10 days.  Agricultural interests continued to be especially hard hit, and the North Carolina governor requested federal disaster aid by the end of the month.

Countywide

9/1/2007

Extreme drought conditions persisted across western North Carolina through September, as the region experienced another month of well-below normal precipitation.  By the end of the month, most locations were running a yearly rainfall deficit of 11-17 inches.  Stream flows and groundwater levels were near record low levels, with many streams running at 5 percent or less of normal flow.  Water levels on area reservoirs were some of the lowest in recorded history.  Agricultural interests continued to be especially hard hit.  Farmers continued to struggle to feed livestock due to a lack of hay and poor pasture conditions, forcing many cattle to be sold or slaughtered.  Agricultural and other losses attributed to the drought are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Countywide

10/1/2007

Unusually dry weather continued across western North Carolina through October.  Although a soaking rain near the end of the month resulted in near-normal monthly precipitation for the mountains, the piedmont saw another month of well-below normal rainfall.  Most areas were on pace to break yearly rainfall deficit records.  By the end of the month, exceptional drought conditions were reported across the majority of the area.  Water flow on area streams continued at 3 to 6 percent of normal, while lake levels remained at near-record lows.  Although most cities and towns were requesting voluntary water restrictions be observed, mandatory restrictions were ordered in quite a few communities.  Also, private wells were beginning to dry up in many areas. Agriculture continued to be severely impacted by the drought.

Countywide

11/1/2007

November provided no relief from the effects of the long term drought.  Many locations remained on pace to set annual records for rainfall deficit.  By the end of the month, the vast majority of the region was experiencing exceptional drought conditions.  Streamflow on area rivers remained extremely low, generally less than 10 percent of normal.  Meanwhile, lakes continued to gradually fall toward record low levels.

Countywide

12/1/2007

The latter half of December saw a transition to a wetter pattern across the southeast.  Most observing stations in western North Carolina reported above normal monthly rainfall for the first time since January 2007.  However, this was not enough to put much of a dent in the long-term drought as extreme to exceptional drought conditions persisted into the New Year.  Although the increase in rainfall did allow for some recharge of area streams, many were still running at less than 25 percent of normal flow at the end of the month.

Countywide

1/1/2008

January saw a return to dry weather across western North Carolina.  Most observing stations across the region reported a rainfall deficit of 1 to 2 inches during the month, resulting in another month of exceptional drought conditions across most of the area.  Water levels on area lakes remained within a foot or two of record low stages.  However, rivers and streams remained somewhat recharged from the December rains, with streamflow on most waterways running 25 to 75 percent of normal.

Countywide

6/1/2008

Although near normal rainfall was observed across much of the area during the late winter and early spring, another period of abnormally dry weather in May and June exacerbated severe to extreme drought conditions over the western Carolinas and northeast Georgia.  Much of the area saw less than 2 inches of rain during this period of time.  By the end of the month, much of the mountains and foothills of western North Carolina were running 10 inches below normal annual rainfall.  Total rainfall deficits since the beginning of 2007 were around 20 inches or more in the hardest hit areas.  By the end of the month, flow on almost all major streams was running less than 10 percent of normal.  Many area crops suffered.

Countywide

7/1/2008

Unusually dry weather continued through the month of July, with severe to extreme drought conditions persisting across the area.  Afternoon and evening thunderstorms provided some degree of relief across portions of the North Carolina piedmont, but locations across Upstate South Carolina and extreme western North Carolina reported annual rainfall deficits of nearly 11 inches by the end of the month.  Mandatory water restrictions were instituted across much of the North Carolina foothills.  Water well levels began to descend below record low levels, most of which were recorded during the 1999-2002 drought.  The vast majority of major streams across the area continued to run 1-10 percent of normal flow.  Agriculture continued to be hard hit, with some areas reporting a 100 percent loss of the corn crop.

Countywide

8/1/2008

Dry weather persisted across much of the area for most of August, although portions of the North Carolina Piedmont began to see relief from the dry conditions early in the month, due to an increase in daily thunderstorm activity.  Elsewhere, exceptional drought conditions persisted and even expanded slightly westward to cover more of far western North Carolina and northeast Georgia.  During the early part of the month, flows on most of the major streams across the area were running at record low levels, with the French Broad River setting a minimum flow record that had stood for almost 100 years.  Only a handful of streams were running at more than 1 to 7 percent of normal.  Groundwater levels were 2-5 feet below normal.  Significant agricultural impacts persisted, with losses to summer crops, including hay, estimated at 30%.  The dry weather also affected the livestock industry, due to shortages of pasture crops necessary for feeding.  By the end of the month, Tropical Storm Fay had dropped up to 11 inches of rainfall across the area, providing some relief from the drought conditions, especially across the North Carolina Piedmont.

Countywide

9/1/2008

The heavy rain brought by Tropical Storm Fay in late August provided some relief to the drought conditions across the area.  This was particularly true across the North Carolina piedmont, where improving conditions were aided by normal September rainfall.  However, another dry month resulted in a persistence of extreme to exceptional drought conditions across the North Carolina mountains and foothills.  Voluntary water restrictions remained widespread during the month.  A few communities held onto mandatory restrictions early in the month, but many of these were lifted by the end of the month.  Well water remained near record low levels in many areas, while lake levels persisted well below normal stages. Rainfall from Fay resulted in some improvement in streamflows, although most rivers and major streams remained at less than 25 percent of normal, with many still running at less than 10 percent of normal.  By the end of the month, government officials had requested a federal disaster declaration for most of the counties in the area due to crop damages.

Source: National Climatic Data Center

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Based on current and seasonal outlook drought maps available through the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center and the National Drought Mitigation Center[20], there is no concern for imminent or forecasted drought occurrences.  However, based on past events, it certainly remains likely over the long-term that Mecklenburg County will experience recurring drought conditions when precipitation falls below normal for extended periods of time.  Based on climate data, Mecklenburg County will likely continue to experience occasional periods of extreme heat, but not nearly as severe as other regions of the country.  It is estimated that the annual probability of severe to extreme drought conditions for the area is less than 10 percent.

 


 

WILDFIRE

 

According to the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources (NCDFR), Mecklenburg County contains 337,773 acres of land, of which 85,800 acres are classified as forest.  This is a notable decrease in forestland from the nearly 133,000 acres reported in 2004.  Approximately 78 percent of the total timberland is privately owned with the remaining 22 percent being owned by Mecklenburg County or its incorporated municipalities. 

 

In an effort to map potential wildfire hazard areas in Mecklenburg County, a GIS-based data layer called the “Wildland Fire Susceptibility Index” (WFSI) was obtained from NCDFR.  The WFSI is a component layer derived from the Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment (SWRA), a multi-year project to assess and quantify wildfire risk for the 13 Southern states.   The Wildland Fire Susceptibility Index (WFSI) is a value between 0 and 1. It was developed consistent with the mathematical calculation process for determining the probability of an acre burning.  The WFSI integrates the probability of an acre igniting and the expected final fire size based on the rate of spread in four weather percentile categories into a single measure of wildland fire susceptibility.  Due to some necessary assumptions, mainly fuel homogeneity, it is not the true probability.  But since all areas of the Mecklenburg County have this value determined consistently, it allows for comparison and ordination of areas of the county as to the likelihood of an acre burning.  Figure 5.10 illustrates the level of wildfire potential for Mecklenburg County based on the WFSI data provided by NCDFR.

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS[r1] 

 

According to the most recent wildfire statistics made available through NCDFR, Mecklenburg County experiences an average of 37 wildfire events per year, the majority of which are caused by ”miscellaneous” or undetermined reasons.  The leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina is debris burning, but much less so in Mecklenburg County due to strong local ordinances which severely restrict outdoor burning.  Minor property damages generally amounting to less than $10,000 per year have been recorded as resulting from wildfire events, though occasionally, and especially during periods of severe to extreme drought, more severe damages result as was the case in 2008 with an estimated $1.6 million in property damages.  Table 5.12 shows the causes of historical occurrences of wildfire events in Mecklenburg County and a five-year average as updated by NCDFR in 2008.  Table 5.13 provides wildfire statistics for Mecklenburg County for the past ten years as reported by NCDFR, including the number of fires, acreage burned and total property damages.  No additional information on these events was made available through NCDFR.

 

Table 5.12: Causes of Wildfire Occurrences in Mecklenburg County

CAUSE OF FIRE

NUMBER OF OCCURRENCES
IN 2008

FIVE-YEAR AVERAGE

Lightning

3

1

Campfire

2

2

Smoking

9

5

Debris Burning

2

2

Incendiary

11

5

Machine Use

8

5

Railroad

3

1

Children

9

5

Miscellaneous

25

11

TOTAL

72

37

Source: North Carolina Division of Forest Resources, 2008

 

Table 5.13: Wildfire Statistics for Mecklenburg County (2000-2009)

YEAR OF EVENT

NUMBER OF FIRES

ACREAGE BURNED

PROPERTY DAMAGE

2000

45

40.6

$6,100

2001

47

94.4

$18,600

2002

43

40.6

$2,350

2003

17

6.9

$0

2004

17

11.7

$0

2005

16

8.7

$11,000

2006

25

14.8

$5,500

2007

59

61.5

$11,000

2008

72

51.8

$1,600,000

2009

49

17

$22,025

TOTAL

390

348

$1,676,575

Source: North Carolina Division of Forest Resources, 2009

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Wildfires remain a highly likely occurrence for Mecklenburg County (100% annual probability), though most will likely continue to occur in less urbanized areas and be small in size before being contained and suppressed.

 


Figure 5.10: Areas of High and Moderate Wildfire Potential

 


 

DAM/LEVEE FAILURE

 

According to the National Inventory of Dams maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers[21], there are five major dams located in Mecklenburg County (Table 5.14).  Major dams are defined as dams being 50 feet or more in height, or with a normal storage capacity of 5,000 acre-feet or more, or with a maximum storage capacity of 25,000 acre-feet or more.  Of the five major dams located in the county, four are classified as “high” hazards where failure or mis-operation of the dam will probably cause loss of human life.  It is important to note that these hazard classifications are not related to the physical condition or structural integrity of the dam (nor the probability of its failure) but strictly to the potential for adverse downstream effects if the dam were to fail.

 

The state regulatory agency for dams is the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Land Resources.  In addition to the five major dams listed in the National Inventory of Dams, this agency tracks and regulates a number of other smaller dams (such as farm pond impoundments, etc.) that present less severe hazard threats.  According to their database there are 195 state-regulated dams[22] located in Mecklenburg County, of which 69 have been classified as “high” hazard dams where in the event of a dam failure there is a probability of at least one death and more than $200,000 in economic damages.  According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management Office and a review of the National Inventory of Dam Performance (NPDP) database, there is no record of failure for any of these state-regulated dams.

 

Table 5.14: Major Dams in Mecklenburg County

NAME OF DAM

HAZARD CLASSIFICATION

YEAR BUILT

NORMAL STORAGE
(ACRE FEET)

Cowans Ford

HIGH

1963

1,028,307

Mountain Island

HIGH

1923

45,970

250 MG Raw Water Reservoir

HIGH

1990

0

Hicks Crossroad Dike

HIGH

1963

1,028,307

McGuire Standby Nuclear Service Water

LOW

1981

578

Source: National Inventory of Dams

Figure 5.11 shows the location of all major and state-regulated dams in Mecklenburg County, and notes which of those are classified as high, intermediate and low hazard.  The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management Office also maintains inundation maps that were prepared based on computer-simulated dam failure scenarios by Duke Energy, the owner and operator for the major hydroelectric dams in Mecklenburg County (Cowans Ford and Mountain Island).  These inundation maps are currently not yet digitally referenced and are therefore not included in the GIS-based risk assessment for Mecklenburg County, but it is expected that they may be in future Plan updates – particularly if dam/levee failure is determined to be a high or moderate risk hazard through future updates to this assessment. 

 

SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL EVENTS

 

There is no record of any damages, deaths or injuries associated with dam failure in Mecklenburg County.  However, in September of 2004 the torrential rains from the combined remnant effects of hurricanes Ivan and Frances forced Duke Energy to release flows through the Cowans Ford dam, resulting in the overtopping of the Mountain Island dam further downstream (there is no controlled spillway for the Mountain Island dam).  This overtopping caused moderate flooding of areas immediately below the dam, including an approximately one-mile stretch of residential properties (an estimated 50-70 homes were affected in the vicinity of Riverside and Lake Drives).  More recent heavy rain and localized flood events in the area have created the need for Duke Energy and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management to update their plans and procedures for issuing notifications and evacuation orders for these same areas, including the use of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Reverse 911® system.

 

PROBABILITY OF FUTURE OCCURRENCES

 

Dam failure remains an unlikely occurrence for all major and state-regulated dams in Mecklenburg County.  The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Land Resources is tasked with monitoring the routine inspection and maintenance of those dams that present the greatest risk or are in need of structural repair.  Further, Duke Energy routinely monitors and inspects the major hydroelectric dams located in the county, and maintains the capabilities to control lake levels and the flows running through its dams on a routine basis.  These activities are done so in coordination with Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Emergency Management Office.


 


Figure 5.11: Location of Dams in Mecklenburg County

 


 

DATA SOURCES

 

The following primary data sources were among those used to collect the information presented in this section.

 

 




[1] Significant historical events are based on information made available through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) unless otherwise cited.  In most cases, NOAA information is obtained directly from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), the world’s largest archive of weather data.

[2] Historical damage information is based on best available data and should only be considered approximate figures for general analysis and planning purposes.  Dollar figures have not been adjusted for inflation in Section 5 but were adjusted in the calculation of annualized loss estimates for Section 6: Vulnerability Assessment.

[3] The vast majority of flood events in the United States do not meet the per capita damage thresholds required to trigger a presidential disaster declaration and the release of large sums of federal aid.  This fact dramatizes the need for local governments to establish a comprehensive mitigation strategy that includes achievable actions that do not rely entirely on assistance from the state and federal government.

[4]   NFIP claims statistics provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (as of 7/31/20091/13/2015).

[5] Property damage data reflects general estimates only, and include insured and uninsured losses.  $27.2 million of this totalThe majority of this information is documented by Mecklenburg County and/or the National Climatic Data Center and covers a period from 1994 to 20092014.  Additional historical information was provided by Mecklenburg County for the period 1900 to 1994 and includes an estimated total of $12 million in recorded damages, though actual figures are likely much higher.

[6] “NR” means “None Reported” indicating that no records exist of reported property damage figures.  This does not exclude the possibility or probability that unreported damages did in fact occur.

[7] While the Severe Thunderstorm hazard is understood to include lightning and hail as hazardous elements, tables are provided with lightning and hail activity presented separately with the understanding that some duplication of deaths, injuries and property damage may occur when comparing all three tables.

[8] “NR” means “None Reported” indicating that no records exist of reported property damage.  This does not exclude the possibility or probability that unreported damages did in fact occur.

[9] While no injuries or crop damages have been reported, this does not necessarily mean that they did not occur.  It does, however, reflect the best readily available (reported) data.

[10] For more information on classifying tornado intensity according to the Enhanced Fujita Scale, please see Section 5: Hazard Analysis.

[11] “NR” means “None Reported” indicating that no records exist of reported property damage.  This does not exclude the possibility or probability that unreported damages did in fact occur.

[12] “NR” means “None Reported” indicating that no records exist of reported property damage.  This does not exclude the possibility or probability that unreported damages did in fact occur.

[13] Damages are for Mecklenburg County only based on the methodological assumption that damages were equally distributed among impacted counties.  While this may not produce an exact estimate of property damage within the county, it is deemed sufficient for planning purposes within this context.

[14] Refer to the Hazard Identification in the preceding section for details regarding the Richter Scale and the potential damages associated with varying degrees of seismic events.

[15] This national USGS base map is presented and discussed in the Hazard Identification section of this Plan.  The zones indicated on the Mecklenburg County map are based on and consistent with the national map.

[16] Refer to the Hazard Identification in the preceding section for details regarding the Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) scale for earthquakes.

[17] NCGS has focused their landslide hazard mapping efforts on counties with a more significant risk and history of landslide occurrence including Buncombe, Macon and Watauga.

[18] Drought occurrences recorded by the National Climatic Data Center are not necessarily unique events, as many instances of drought persist through multiple reporting periods.  This is reflected in the details provided for some long-enduring occurrences in Table 5.11.

[19] While no injuries or crop damages have been reported to the NCDC, this does not necessarily mean that they did not occur.  For example, the USDA disaster declaration data that follows provides another means to measure the impact of drought-related damages.

[20] Current and seasonal drought outlook maps are made available by the National Drought Mitigation Center at www.drought.unl.edu/dm/index.html.

[21] The National Inventor of Dams was developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in cooperation with FEMA's National Dam Safety Program.  The full inventory contains over 75,000 dams, of which 7,700 are classified as major, and is used to track information on the country's water control infrastructure. 

[22] State-regulated dams include any dam structure greater than 15 feet in height or that has an impoundment capacity of greater than 10 acre-feet, along with any dam in which failure could result in loss of human life or significant damage below the dam.  Exempt dams include those constructed by the United States government or licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as those in connection with electric generating facilities under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Utilities Commission.


 [r1]Updated information for this section was requested from NCDFR on 1/6/2015 and followed up on 3/10/2015.

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