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Flooding continued Friday in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina; Gaston County man dies in Thursday's storms

Flooding continued Friday along the Yadkin River, creeks and streams in Forsyth and Davidson counties, authorities said.

A Gaston County man died in a weather-related vehicle crash in Thursday’s storms.

Terry Roger Fisher, 73, of Cherryville was driving his pickup , which hydroplaned in heavy rain, plunged down a 25-foot embankment and overturned in a creek, the N.C. Highway Patrol said. Fisher was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fisher was among four people who died Thursday as high winds, rain, floods and tornadoes pummeled the Southeast.

A tornado touched down 2 miles north of Liberty in northeastern Randolph County, the National Weather Service confirmed on Friday. It toppled trees along U.S. 421 near its exit on Old Liberty Road. No injuries were reported.

At least two tornadoes possibly touched down in Mecklenburg County on Thursday, the weather service said. The violent weather toppled trees and damaged power lines in Charlotte.

Officials at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport evacuated a control tower and advised people to shelter in place because of a tornado warning. Airport officials later tweeted that an inspection of its airfield showed no damage. More than 460 flights into and out of the airport were canceled Thursday.

The Yadkin River flooded along the Enon community in eastern Yadkin County and along the Yadkin College community in western Davidson County, the weather service said. The Triad and Northwest North Carolina received 3 to 5 inches of rain Thursday.

The river reached 26.68 feet at Enon at noon Friday, the weather service said. The Yadkin’s flood stage at that location is 24 feet.

Low-lying areas in both Yadkin and Forsyth counties are experiencing minor flooding, said Ben Gouver, a weather service meteorologist in Blacksburg, Va.

BB&T Sports Park in Bermuda Run is closed until Monday because of flooding from the Yadkin River, said Kristen Strain, the park’s chief administrative officer. Earlier on Friday, 7 feet of water covered six fields near the river, said Fred Pegram, the park’s turf manager.

“There is nothing we can do until the water recedes,” Pegram said. “We then will clean up the silt and debris and clear the roads.”

The Yadkin River reached 26.96 feet at Yadkin College at 3:47 p.m. Friday, the weather service said. The river’s flood stage at that location is 18 feet.

Floodwater has reached several homes along the river, and has closed Sowers Road near the Linwood community and Hollywood Drive at Grub Ferry Road, said James Danco, a weather service meteorologist in Raleigh. A campground on Hannah Ferry Road is flooded.

The upper campsites at the Thousand Trails Preserve off U.S. 64 has flooded, the weather service said. Minor flooding occurred along the river’s banks in Davidson and Davie counties.

The Yadkin River at Enon and Yadkin College will fall below its flood stage by Saturday afternoon, Gouver and Danco said.

A wind advisory for central North Carolina, including Forsyth, Guilford and Davidson counties, was in effect for most of Friday. A strong low pressure system moved across the mid-Atlantic states Friday. A trailing cold front swept across central North Carolina and produced strong winds.

Friday’s wind speeds ranged range between 15 to 30 mph with gusts between 35 and 45 mph in the region, the weather service said. The strong winds damaged trees, resulting in power outages.

Duke Energy Corp. initially reported 1,310 power outages in Forsyth County, 1,648 outages in Guilford County and 12 outages in Stokes County, according to the company’s website.

By 6 p.m. Friday, Duke Energy reported 642 outages in Forsyth County, 614 in Guilford County and 140 outages in Davidson County.

The N.C. Department of Transportation reported that roads and bridges were closed Friday because of downed trees, fallen power lines and utility poles and flooding in Forsyth, Davidson, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Davie, Stokes and Wilkes counties.

Minor flooding happened as most creeks and streams in Forsyth County flowed outside their banks Friday, said Gary Styers, the Forsyth County fire marshal.

Flooding also occurred around the Muddy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in southern Forsyth, said Gale Ketteler, a spokeswoman for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities Division. However, no sewage reached the Yadkin River, said Ketteler and Sarah Young, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Division of Environmental Quality.

City crews worked Friday to clear blocked storm drainage systems in Winston-Salem, said Keith Huff, the city’s director of field operations. Huff wasn’t aware of any roads or streets with standing water from drainage problems, he said.

Today’s forecast in Forsyth County calls for a high temperature of 43 degrees with a 20% chance of rain. Tonight’s low temperature will be around 31 degrees with a 20% chance of rain.


State
Healthcare CEO, area educator vie for House 72 seat

A former principal and a health-care non-profit CEO are angling for the Democratic nomination in the race for North Carolina House District 72.

Amber Baker, the former principal of Kimberly Park Elementary, and LaShun Huntley, CEO of the non-profit United Health Centers, are running to fill the seat previously held by State Rep. Derwin Montgomery, a Democrat. Montgomery opted not to run for reelection in 2020, and is instead running for U.S. Congress for the newly formed 6th District.

Whichever candidate wins the March 3 primary will face Republican challenger Dan Lawlor in the November general election.

While neither Baker or Huntley have prior political experience, both say they are running with the community in mind.

As an educator in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, and having personally been homeless and a recipient of welfare assistance in her past, Baker said she’s uniquely equipped to understand what many of her potential future constituents might be experiencing. Because of that experience, Baker said if she’s elected she will advocate for increased state funding for social services and affordable housing.

“I wouldn’t have gotten here if I wasn’t able to use welfare for a period of time with my daughter, or had access to subsidized housing,” she said. “With my life experiences I understand we need to provide social services to help people get out of poverty, but on the same level we need to provide opportunities with accountability.”

On the other hand, Huntley said his top priority is Medicaid expansion. His work in the nonprofit healthcare sector and the death of his grandmother, who didn’t have health insurance, have galvanized his views on access to healthcare, he said. Huntley touts his success as CEO as proof of his ability.

“Looking at me versus her, at the end of the day, I am the person that’s gotten things done and I have achieved quite a few things as a leader in a short period,” Huntley said.

Since Huntley joined United Health Centers in 2012, the nonprofit’s budget has increased from $250,000 to over $4 million, he said.

In addition to Medicaid expansion, Huntley supports increased funding for education, citing the year he spent as a biology teacher at Parkland High School as lived experience. Baker said she also supports increased education funding.

When asked where they fall on the Democratic spectrum of candidates, from moderate to far-left progressive, both candidates said traditional labels didn’t apply to their politics.

“I would consider myself as a moderate with a progressive tinge because I believe in people having control in what goes on in their bedrooms, and I believe in capitalism, but capitalism with regulation and modification,” Baker said. “I don’t think I fit neatly into a box.”

Huntley fashioned himself as a potential dealmaker, saying his politics are motivated by whatever is best for the people.

“I think I see myself as a Democrat that looks for the best approach when it comes to changing people’s lives,” Huntley said. “I wouldn’t consider myself a moderate or anything.”

Both candidates said they’ve briefly met each other, but haven’t had a substantive conversation on policy. They have much in common, as both graduated from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County high schools and both graduated from Winston-Salem State. Not to mention that they agree on almost every policy issue.

Despite the similarities, they said their unique life experiences set them apart from one another.

“He’s speaking on his position on healthcare from the position of being a CEO of a healthcare organization,” Baker said. “The issues I’m passionate about is from someone who’s lived those experiences and seen those issues everyday. I have my finger on the pulse of those issues that people are living every day.”


Local
Man stabbed his girlfriend and admitted it on Facebook, prosecution says. He'll spend a maximum six years in prison.

A Winston-Salem man stabbed his girlfriend 11 times because he thought she was cheating on him, posted a video admitting what he had done on Facebook and then drove his girlfriend’s car head-on into a tractor-trailer in an attempt to kill himself, a Forsyth County prosecutor said in court Wednesday.

Ross Weathers IV, 35, of the 1900 block of Bedford Street, pleaded guilty in Forsyth Superior Court to one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury.

Judge Kevin Bridges of Forsyth Superior Court sentenced Weathers to a minimum of four years and 10 months and a maximum of six years and 10 months in prison.

Ebonee Sade Burnette and Weathers had dated for several years and had a son together, Assistant District Attorney Ben White said.

On July 29, 2019, Burnette arrived at her home with a male friend and her son. White said Weathers was already in the house, but Burnette didn’t know it.

Burnette went into the kitchen. Weathers, White said, came out and stabbed Burnette nine times in the back, once in the arm and another time in the chest. Burnette fell to the ground, and Weathers kicked her several times, including in the face.

In a victim impact statement, Burnette wrote that Weathers stomped her in the face. She was taken to the hospital and has fully recovered, White said.

Afterward, Weathers posted a video on his Facebook page. He said when he saw Burnette with another man, he blacked out and stabbed her 30 times.

“Hopefully, she’s (expletive deleted) dead,” he said in the video, according to White. He also indicated that he was going to commit suicide.

Soon after posting the Facebook video, Weathers drove Burnette’s car along U.S. 64, crossed the centerline and ran into a semi-truck head-on, White said. Weathers was treated and released from a local hospital. He told Davie County Sheriff’s deputies and troopers with the N.C. Highway Patrol that he was trying to kill himself after he had committed a “passionate” crime.

He is facing a pending charge of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury and several other misdemeanor charges in connection to the crash.

After the incident, Burnette sought a domestic-violence restraining order against Weathers. In the complaint, she said her son witnessed the assault. The restraining order was granted and is effective until August of this year. She also obtained a domestic-violence order in 2018 after an incident in which she alleged Weathers held a knife to her throat while she was pinned to the bed. She said Weathers threatened to kill her.

Burnette came to the hearing but had to leave the courtroom because she did not want to be in the same room as Weathers, White said.

Burnette’s mother, Teresa Adams, told Bridges that her daughter is traumatized by what happened. Adams also said the whole incident has traumatized her as well, leading to a mental breakdown. She has struggled with how to deal with Burnette’s son, who just got home from a road trip with Weathers and now has to face the fact that his father is going away to prison for stabbing his mother.

Adams said she has already lost one daughter to violence and has had to deal with almost losing a second daughter the same way. Adams’ daughter, Chiquita Lawanna Adams, 35, was found strangled to death in a hotel room in High Point on Christmas Day in 2015, according to a Feb. 8, 2016, News & Record story. When Atrium Inn employees checked on the room, they found Adams’ 11-year-old daughter crying. The girl said she could not wake up her mother.

Shanion Donta Watson, 39, was convicted of first-degree murder on July 12, 2019, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in Adams’ death.

Jason Whitler, Weathers’ attorney, said his client suffers from bipolar disorder. He said he has remorse for what he did and accepted responsibility for his actions early on in the investigation.

Bridges ordered Weathers to not have any contact with Burnette.


Local
Judge: Stokes County Schools not negligent in sexual assault of disabled student by van driver.

King

Stokes County Schools officials were not negligent in a case where a disabled student was sexually assaulted 21 times on two separate days in 2015 by a van driver transporting her to and from her school, a judge ruled this week.

The student and her mother sued the Stokes County school system in December 2018, three years after the sexual assault happened. That lawsuit alleged that the school system and YVEDDI, shorthand for Yadkin Valley Economic Development District Inc., and school board members were all negligent for a number of reasons, including the hiring of the van driver who sexually assaulted the student.

That driver, Robert Anthony King, 53, is serving about five years to 11 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 2016 to several counts of statutory sex offense and sexual activity by a custodian.

Judge Eric Morgan granted a motion for summary judgment on Feb. 4, meaning he ruled in the school system’s favor without holding a trial. Essentially, Morgan did not find any evidence that the school system was negligent or should be held liable for King’s actions.

Kirk Sanders, attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients plan to appeal the decision, which would be heard by the N.C. Court of Appeals. Deborah Stagner, attorney for the school system, could not be reached for comment.

YVEDDI, a nonprofit community action agency focused on improving the lives of the region’s residents, entered into a contract with the school system in August 2013 to provide transportation services. YVEDDI hired King to be one of its van drivers.

The victim was a 20-year-old woman who was described as having the emotional maturity of a first-grader and also had diabetes. According to court documents, King sexually assaulted the student 21 times on two separate days in December 2015.

A Stokes County resident reported some problems with a YVEDDI van, and YVEDDI officials reviewed videos from the vans, including the one on the van King drove, and discovered the sexual assaults.

During a hearing last month in Surry Superior Court, Sanders argued that school officials were negligent in a number of areas, particularly in developing individualized education plans. Students with disabilities are supposed to have an individualized education plan that is updated every year. Parents participate in developing that plan along with school officials, and school officials must adequately notify parents of those meetings.

School officials didn’t follow the rules in developing individualized education plans in the victim’s case, Sanders alleged. And school officials failed to notify the student’s mother about the contract with YVEDDI or that the student would be riding the bus without a monitor, someone who is assigned to assist a student. The victim had spent most of her educational career having a monitor on the bus.

But Stagner, attorney for the school system, argued at the hearing that there was nothing school officials could have done that would have prevented the sexual assaults. YVEDDI screened all their drivers, including King, conducted criminal background checks and made sure that drivers had the proper licenses. Drivers were all trained on sexual harassment and told that they were not to touch passengers.

Morgan largely agreed with Stagner in his ruling.

“Plaintiffs have also not shown that Defendant’s conduct, apart from that of YVEDDI or its employee, was reasonably foreseeable to cause the plaintiff severe emotional distress in light of the intervening, intentional third-party criminal acts,” Morgan said in his opinion.