By Dave Russell
Heavy rain and high water canceled classes at Blue Ridge Early College and Blue Ridge School last Thursday when a culvert under Bobcat Drive partially washed out.
Water also seeped into the elementary school side of the building, and the school remained closed Friday.
“The flooding into the building was minimal,” Deputy Superintendent Jake Buchanan said. “Water was overwhelming the gutters and the threshold of the door, so water was coming over the thresholds into the building, but there was no real damage, just water in the floors that needed to be cleaned up.”
The culvert that pipes an unnamed branch into Hurricane Creek washed out, trapping students at the school as the culvert was not safe for buses to traverse.
The Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and school officials decided to build a temporary structure over the culvert.
“It was fully stable for foot traffic, but just to be sure, we laid down fire department ladders and built a plywood bridge over the top of the ladders that spanned the distance beyond the culvert,” Buchanan said. “They put up some temporary hand railing and then allowed the kids to walk single file over the bridge.”
No one was injured.
“The kids were all fine, the parents were understanding,” he said. “There were quite a few comments from folks who had lived there their entire lives who had never seen that much water come down that creek into that area. It was an immense amount of rainfall coming into that area that night.”
Buses were called in from elsewhere in the county to help get the kids home.
“We brought three buses up from Cullowhee Valley Elementary,” he said. “We staged them at the Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad building there at the mouth of the school. We brought down those kids who rode those three buses and loaded them up and ran their routes.“
For car riders, officials set up a makeshift pickup lane for parents at the rescue squad building.
“Most of the kids were in school that day, and total enrollment is right at 284 students,” he said.
The culvert was repaired Friday.
The N.C. Department of Transportation would roll out a thin layer of asphalt to get through the winter and finish the repair to Bobcat Drive when the weather is warmer, he said.
On the way to the schools, Jackson County Director of Emergency Management Director Todd Dillard was involved in a minor traffic accident when his emergency services vehicle struck an ambulance responding to an incident on Helen Zachary Road.
Dillard, with Fire Marshal Michael Forbis riding along, struck an ambulance that was turning around on N.C. 107.
“We hit on the side of it,” he said. “No one was hurt and no citations were issued.”
The ambulance call was for a car in Caney Fork Creek off Helen Zachary Road that morning.
“Someone had went into the water, but we’re not sure exactly how that happened,” Dillard said. “He was rescued by Emergency Services using ropes and personnel to get him out.”
He was not too far into the creek and was not injured, Dillard said.