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Recent Storms Cause Widespread Flooding Across ENC

Eastern North Carolina has been inundated with rain when a system stalled along the coast, dumping up to 22 inches of rain in some areas.  The slow moving nor’easter combined with tropical moisture from Hurricane Joaquin and caused widespread flooding across the region on Sunday and Monday. 

It’s harvest time; sweet potatoes, peanuts, soybeans and tobacco are ready to be picked.   So it’s the worst time for strong winds and rain.  After this week’s storm, fields are flooded, plants have been destroyed, and some crops like cotton may be a total loss because they can’t be harvested when the seeds are softened by rain.  It’s not known exactly how much damage was caused, but Gov. Pat McCrory and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler were in eastern North Carolina this week surveying the damage.  Troxler said later every major crop in the state took a hit from the recent storm.  We’ll continue to cover the agricultural losses as more information comes available. 

The National Guard moved out of eastern North Carolina this week and into South Carolina on Thursday to help them recover from record flooding.  More than 500 soldiers and airmen were sent to help public information and staff support, set up road barriers and provide critical necessities like water.  The primary mission of the Guard is to assess bridges, roads and buildings and assist with debris removal, road repair and construction.

During the storm, the National Guard supported emergency operations in eastern North Carolina.  From their staging area in Goldsboro, forty four members of the National Guard were dispersed to parts of Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Hyde, and Pamlico counties.  Lt. Robert Morris with Force Package One says they supported local law enforcement and emergency response personnel. 

“Delivering swift water rescue personnel to go do rescue missions, they were driving around personnel to do reconnaissance of areas to determine how bad flooding was in certain areas. That was primarily done in Pamlico.”

Members also assisted in vehicle recovery.  National Guard troops helped out in Pamlico County which dealt with some the region’s worst flooding.  Sheriff Chris Davis says the persistent 25 to 30 mile per hour winds earlier this week pushed water into low lying areas, causing flooding typically associated with a hurricane or tropical storm.

“The hardest hit areas in Pamlico County were Hobucken and Lowland communities as well as the Florence and Hortonville communities.  At one point in time, in between Hobucken and Lowland, there was about four and a half feet of water on the road and then there was an area down the Florence and Hortonville area that had about three and a half to four foot of water on the road.”

Flooding caused two sections of road in Pamlico County to wash out, one on Kershaw Road and the other on Neuse Road.  That’s when Davis says they called in the National Guard to assist with extraction of residents. 

“We had an issue in Hobucken where we had seven people inside of a house and they actually ran out of food and water so we had to go in and get those folks out of the house.  And then we had another issue down in Hortonville where there was actually water coming in the home, and it was an elderly couple, and they could not get out.  So we had to go down there and get them out of the house as well.”

Davis says a total of six homes were flooded, and there’s been reports of several vehicles that were flooded.  The official damage assessment for Pamlico County has not been released.  He says no injuries were reported during the storm.

It’s a similar story in Beaufort County where areas at the mouth of the Pungo River and along the Pamlico River were hardest hit. 

“We’ve had some of the highest water since Hurricane Irene and some of the highest water here that I’ve ever seen here when we’ve had a nor’easter.”

Emergency Manager John Pack says a dozen homes had water in them and several businesses were flooded.

“The town of Belhaven had water going into some of the stores on Main Street, it had water across all the other streets in Belhaven plus we had a minor fuel spill, diesel fuel.  We got the Coast Guard in, spill team to work with our technician and they were able to find the source and were able to take care of the source before it became a much bigger spill.”

Heavy rains and swollen creeks prompted the North Carolina Department of Transportation to close 26 roads in Beaufort County, especially in the Pamlico Beach area where the water was several feet deep and impassable for ambulances.

“Now, there were some big trucks that were able to get through, and we were able to run our firetrucks through it in order to extricate people.”

In addition to the flooding, Pack says there were intermittent power outages during the weekend affecting anywhere from 20 to 450 people.  The local fire department assisted DOT crews in clearing roads of downed trees and debris from the storm. 

Craven County was not spared either. Director of Emergency Services Stanley Kite says received 12 to 14 inches of rainfall this past weekend flooding areas that are prone to inundation during nor’easters. 

“The majority of it was in the Harlow community, more specifically Adams Creek Road area, Becton Road.  We also had flooding out in River Bend, over in Fairfield Harbor, Brice’s Creek, in and around East Front Street in New Bern, South Front Street, Oaks Road, Glenburnie Road in New Bern.”

Kite says water did get into several crawl spaces and garages, but no homes were damaged.  Only three trees were knocked down during the storm, but two of them fell on highway 118 west of Vanceboro, prompting accidents.  Kite says emergency responders had to rescue a couple motorists who attempted to drive through flooded roads in Craven County.

“We had one with a mother and her two children on a private road, they slipped off the road into a canal and their vehicle was getting submerged.  But fortunately, they were able to get out.”

Kite says Craven County fared well during the nor’easter with no injuries reported.   Most areas in Onslow County made it through the storm with relatively minor impacts, according to Director of Emergency Services Norman Bryson.  Thirteen homes and businesses were affected by heavy rains and storm surge.

“We’ve seen a few houses with water in them.  The fortunate piece is that these houses were designed to be secondary level homes and the damages were really very minimal.”

Three of those homes in Onslow County were considered to have minor damage, which translates into $224,000.  Swansboro’s figures haven’t been tallied yet.  Bryson says he expects several businesses in that area with minor damage.  Downtown Jacksonville also received minor flooding near the New River and areas near Sneads Ferry were also impacted.

“We had several issues of flooding in North Topsail but most of that was where the waves actually broke through the dunes and got into the roadway. So there were some areas there that we saw a foot and a half of water.”

Beach erosion from high swell is an ongoing concern on North Topsail Island.  During the most recent storm, town officials estimate about $15.5 million in damages on 11 miles of coastline.

“We also have state and federal personnel coming in next week to evaluate that to see what amount has actually occurred.  So there’s a lot of concern there with the beach erosion.  North Topsail has put in a lot of sandbags in the last years trying to protect homes down in that area.  There will be affect over time if that sand is not able to be replaced or replenished.”

Now that the flooding is going down, residents across eastern North Carolina are cleaning up debris and making necessary repairs.  Just because the storm is over doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk of injury.  Beaufort County Emergency Manager John Pack urges residents to take precautions when picking up debris.

“They should be wearing gloves and double bagging that material.  And they should use great caution when picking up lumber, especially treated lumber, as it may have nails or wood screws in them that could definitely put a hurting on a person.”

When cleaning up your yard, you should also be on the lookout for snakes hiding in debris.  Also, make sure to wear long sleeves pants and shirts as mosquitos will likely be a nuisance.  Carteret County Public Works Department said this week they will be spraying and larvalciding to reduce mosquito population after this significant rain event.  Pack says Beaufort County is prepared to respond if mosquitos get out of hand.

“Our county environmental engineers were out and placed mosquito traps, we had them out before the storm came so we can monitor and see if it starts growing, then we will start spraying.”

Jared Brumbaugh is the Assistant General Manager for Public Radio East. An Eastern North Carolina native, Jared began his professional public radio career at Public Radio East while he was a student at Craven Community College earning his degree in Electronics Engineering Technology. During his 15+ years at Public Radio East, he has served as an award-winning journalist, producer, and on-air host. When not at the station, Jared enjoys hiking, traveling, and honing his culinary skills.