Hurricane Florence caused an estimated $18 million in damages to roads, recreation areas, and trails in the Croatan National Forest.
"The priority has been to open as many of the roads and trails that we can," said Cathy Dowd, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Forest Service National Forest in North Carolina. "Some places, like Cedar Point Campground, we had problems with electricity. So we were able to get an electrician in there to repair that and reopen that site."
Repairs have been made to the road leading into Oyster Point Campground in Carteret County and the site is expected to reopen May 1st. Pine Cliff Recreation Area, near Cherry Branch in Craven County, will reopen once hazards leading to the site are cleared, said Dowd.
"We've done about as much much work as we can with the current budget that we have."
Eight of 27 recreation sites have remained closed since the September storm. The U.S. Forest Service is waiting for additional funding from Congress to address significant erosion happening at sites along the Neuse River and make repairs at Flanner's Beach, Fisher's Landing, the Newport River Boat Launch, and the Neusiok Trailhead at the Newport River.
"A lot of this involves trees that have fallen across the road and trails. Some of it is broken and eroded pavement damaged culverts that lead to additional flooding when we get rainfall there, damaged bridges. We also have a lot of the handrails, boardwalks, and trail bridges that were destroyed or damaged. And those are the kind of damages that create a real safety hazard for visitors."
Road, area, and recreation site closures are effective through Aug. 13th, 2019 or until the Forest Supervisor rescinds the closures.
With the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season on June 1st, the U.S. Forest Service is making preparations throughout the Croatan district.
"We have a hurricane response plan that lays out how to prepare and close the facilities when a hurricane is forecasting so it will prevent some of those places from being damaged and people getting stuck," said Dowd. "We're also doing things like armoring the banks of rivers and streams so that they are less susceptible to erosion. When we replace culverts in those areas, we're resizing them so they can accommodate larger flows from these bigger storms."