Crazy weather hits Southeast

Progress Energy's David Buckner stands near rubble from a house in the Maggie Valley area in far western North Carolina that was destroyed and moved by a mudslide Wednesday morning.

Heavy rains flooded the South on Wednesday from a rainstorm sweeping the nation. But the Lowcountry saw little more than strong gusts of wind.

No damage reports came into the National Weather Service in Charleston. Only a trace of rain was recorded at the weather service office at Charleston International Airport, and the highest gust was 44 mph. The front weakened as it reached the coast, said meteorologist Bob Bright, of the weather service.

Thousands of people in the region lost power in the wind and rain, and a landslide destroyed a home in the mountains of western North Carolina. Utilities said nearly 20,000 customers had lost power in the Carolinas, mostly in North Carolina, by midmorning, and crews scrambled to restore service.

Wind gusts of 50 mph were recorded in Columbia, according to the weather service.

More than 3 inches of rain fell in some spots in drought-stricken Upstate counties, according to the South Carolina Climatology Office.

A landslide destroyed a home in Haywood County in the North Carolina mountains, but its occupants escaped with only minor injuries, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported. Emergency crews evacuated eight other homes in the Maggie Valley area. "I'm just glad no one was killed," said neighbor Carolyn Phillips.

People in about 25 homes in eastern Tennessee were encouraged to evacuate in the face of rising waters. The rain also closed roads and caused two small rock slides.

Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia were also experiencing flooding. In addition to rain, a wind advisory issued for most of Georgia called for gusts ranging from 20 mph to 30 mph.

In West Virginia, the state's major electric utilities, Allegheny Energy and Appalachian Power, reported there were thousands without power.

Nine roads and bridges were closed in West Virginia because of high water and downed power lines, the state Division of Highways said. Most of the problems were centered in Logan County in the southern part of the state.

Heavy rain flooded more than 30 roads in far southwest Virginia. Twenty secondary roads in Scott County were closed, as well as 12 in Lee County, Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Earl said.

Near Williamsburg, Va., the storm caused some minor damage to the Le Scoot flume ride at Busch Gardens Europe theme park. Park spokesman Kevin Crossett said a small- to medium-size tree did very minor damage to the ride's fiberglass trough.

As skies cleared in Alabama, parts of the state still struggled with scattered flooding from a lengthy deluge that led to rescue operations earlier in the week when cars were engulfed in water. Emergency crews evacuated about 70 people Monday night from a bingo hall in a low-lying area between Jasper and Sumiton. Crews returned Tuesday with a boat to reach employees who stayed behind.

In north Alabama, two teenagers from Arab had to be rescued by emergency personnel late Tuesday afternoon when their Jeep was swept away by rising water on a rural road.

"The boys were standing on top of the Jeep about 50 yards from dry land when we arrived," Arab Fire Chief Ricky Phillips said.

The 18-year-old driver and his 17-year-old passenger were reeled to safety with a rope tied to a flat-bottom boat.

But forecasts of falling temperatures brought the possibility that rain could soon give way to snow in some places.

In north Georgia, the National Weather Service forecast temperatures in the low 30s overnight with the possibility of snow showers. Winter storm warnings were issued for counties in West Virginia. A snow advisory was posted for several counties in far eastern Kentucky.