Noirth Carolina Department of Transpoirtation crews closed off Downing Street at Forest Hills Road just after lunchtime on Tuesday following intense rains overnight. Officials urge motorists to observe road closures and caution them never to drive around barricades on flooded streets.
Drew C. Wilson | Times
By Corey Friedman
STANTONSBURG — State troopers say a Florida woman drowned Wednesday night after driving into floodwater on a barricaded stretch of N.C. 58.
Trooper C. Kase of the North Carolina Highway Patrol said 65-year-old Sandra Berry of Kissimmee, Florida, lost her life when rushing water submerged the 2010 Toyota sedan she was driving. The incident happened 200 feet south of Parris Road in rural Greene County.
“She drove around several barricades,” Kase said. “As she was driving through the water, her car got swept into deeper water.”
Portions of N.C. 58 were closed to traffic following storms that dumped more than 8 inches of water on Wilson and Greene counties Monday and Tuesday. The heavy rain caused waterways to spill over their banks, flooding stretches of major roads along with streets in low-lying areas.
Berry’s car sunk into the flooded highway less than a half-mile after crossing the N.C. 58 bridge over Watery Branch, a tributary of the Contentnea Creek. The bridge marks the Wilson-Greene county line.
Kase said a passerby saw Berry’s car partially submerged in the water and called 911 around 8 p.m. Wednesday. Several Greene County volunteer fire departments responded and recovered Berry’s body.
It wasn’t clear Thursday whether Berry was traveling through North Carolina or visiting friends or relatives here. Troopers said she had a valid Florida driver license and her car was registered in New York.
In the wake of this week’s torrential rain, state and local authorities have warned motorists to observe road closures and avoid driving into deep water. Officials say drivers should never pass barricades that mark flooded stretches of road and are stressing the mantra “Turn around, don’t drown.”
The N.C. Department of Transportation urges motorists to observe the barricades even if roads appear clear since flooding can cause washouts underneath the road surface. NCDOT crews perform safety inspections of all closed roads before reopening the routes to traffic.
Kase said Berry would be alive had she not driven around the barricades on N.C. 58.