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Cornelius News

How dry we aren’t: Wet winter precipitates lots of problems

By Dave Vieser. If it seems like 2018 was a really wet year, you’re right. Precipitation totals from not just around the lake but the entire state are reaching or surpassing record levels at many locations. And January 2019, at least thus far, has been just as rainy.

It’s an El Nino year, which could—emphasize the tentative nature of the word could—bring more storms. Former Charlotte Observer weather writer Steve Lyttle says a possible “Polar Vortex situation in North America” could set us up for particularly cold temperatures as well. “Combine the parade of storm systems across the southern United States, compliments of El Nino, and you have the makings of old-fashioned winter,” he says.

Forecasts are just forecasts, but 2018 was definitely a wet one, complicating life in Cornelius. Here are some examples:

Sinkholes. Residents who live in Antiquity are, by now, very familiar with the sinkhole on Old Canal Street. Barricades are blocking the busy street that connects South Street in Davidson to Main Street in Cornelius. While the sinkhole has been temporarily filled with gravel, the 8- to 10-foot hole adjacent to the pavement dismays residents and town officials alike. The sinkhole is on private property and the owner, Finley Properties, is responsible for repair. There was another sinkhole on Old Canal in 2014. Motorists are trying inventive ways to circumvent the detour, causing consternation for neighbors and pedestrians.

On Wednesday, Assistant Town Manager Wayne Herron said video reveals that a pipe separated underground. “Finley Properties has retained Bionomics and they will be submitting an engineered plan for repair to Mecklenburg County LUESA for review and approval. The Town will review the repair plan along with LUESA engineers and work with Finley Properties for a coordinated approval and repair plan,” Herron said. He would not speculate on when work will begin or when the road will reopen.

Lake Norman. Lake levels have been up, down and up this year. “The rainfall pattern we’ve experienced has been challenging for our hydro operations team, especially for minimizing downstream impacts such as preventing lakes from exceeding full pond and spilling,” said Duke Energy spokeswoman Kim Crawford. Water level management is a science based on capacity and flows. “When lake levels are at normal target levels, there is typically sufficient storage in our larger lakes for a significant rainfall event. With back-to-back storms, it’s been challenging moving water through the 11-reservoir system to create storage for the next rainfall event.”

Crawford says as of Dec. 19, the 2018 rainfall total for the Catawba River basin was 52.93 inches, 10.33 inches above the 20-year long-term average. Other weather stations in the Charlotte/North Mecklenburg region have totals as much as 16 inches above normal. Out on the coast, it’s even worse, with Wilmington exceeding 100 inches for the year already.

Sports events. PARC Director Fitzsimmons also bemoaned the problems he has had rescheduling town-sponsored sports and recreational events around constant rain storms. “I’ve never had a year like this, where in many instances we were running three weeks or more behind schedule,” he says. Many schools faced similar problems.

While officials agree this has been an extraordinary year for precipitation, there’s less agreement on the reasons why. When will the heavy rainfall pattern subside? Not anytime soon, according to Duke Energy. “The El Nino weather pattern means wetter conditions and our meteorologists indicate this weather pattern will persist through April,” Crawford said.

Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday look awesome, according to the National Weather Service. The high Sunday will approach 70 degrees, and sunny.