Tropical Storm Zeta was downgraded from a category 2 hurricane to a tropical storm before it slammed into the mountains on Oct. 29, but with it came strong winds and heavy rainfall that knocked out power for hundreds in Highlands and closed roads throughout the Plateau.
Highlands Public Works Director Lamar Nix said the Town received one call for assistance at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 28 and things stayed quiet until about 4 a.m. From that point on it was consistent calls for downed trees, power outages, and blocked roads.
“We’ve been at it all day since about 4 this morning,” said Nix. “We had one tree just lean on a line on Highway 106 and it knocked out half the town for a short time around midmorning. But trees and lines were down all over. I’d say we had about 10-15% of customers with lengthy outages. That’s maybe a couple hundred people.”
Heavy rainfall flooded roads including 5th Street, Horse Cove Road, and Leonard Road.
“All the areas that flooded are in a floodplain and are prone to flooding, but there’s not much you can do except wait for the water to go down,” said Nix. “Any time you get one of these big storms, you know it’s going to happen, you just don’t know how much.”
Nix added that he believed this was the first time 5th Street has flooded since culverts were installed as part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) project in 2012.
“The culvert was doing it’s job, it was just too much water too quick for the culvert to handle it,” said Nix.
Nix said preparation is key when a storm like Zeta is on its way, particularly having extra power line equipment such as poles, transformers, and connectors.
“You have to be thoroughly supplied,” said Nix. “Highlands is remote, and if you don’t have something you need, it will be too far to go get it. You need to have this stuff on hand.”
The sun was shining by late afternoon on Thursday, most of the flooding had dispersed, and the roads had been cleared of obstructions.