This story is part of an ongoing anniversary series on Hurricane Florence, which struck in September 2018, and the storm’s lingering effects on Carteret County and its residents.
NEWPORT — Hurricane Florence hit Carteret County hard in mid-September 2018 and caused unprecedented flooding in Newport.
Town Planner Robert Will, who came to work in Newport just in time to get caught up in Florence, said Newport suffered a lot of flooding damage, “but the people of Newport are strong and resilient and are rebuilding the town together.”
According to Mr. Will, during Florence the town was cut off from the rest of Carteret County. Both the Newport River and Deep Creek flooded their banks, resulting in the East Chatham Street bridge and the bridge over Deep Creek being submerged and impassable.
“Shortly after the storm, (town) staff met with state and federal representatives to discuss the damage assessment process,” Mr. Will said. “The town was given resources and direction to perform damage assessments on all structures in the designated flood zone area. While a few neighborhoods in the flood zone areas weren’t affected by flood waters, the majority of the structures in the flood zone sustained some kind of flood-related damage.”
Resident Al Hill lives at unit No. 15 at 688 Roberts Road. Mr. Hill said he evacuated with his wife, Elesia, and their two dogs when Florence was on its way. He said they returned afterward on Sept. 18, 2018.
“When I got back (home), I had 4½ to 5 feet of water in the yard,” he said, “and 48 inches (4 feet) in the house… We’ve never had flooding like that before.”
Mr. Hill and his wife wouldn’t be driven away from their home, however. With the help of relatives, Mr. Hill said they “gutted the whole house” and raised it 10 feet to meet the floodplain requirements.
“I had to do most of it myself,” he said. The repairs took 11 months, during which he, his wife and their dogs lived in a camper.
According to Mr. Will, more than 25 site-specific, in-depth damage assessments were performed, as well as 134 storm-related site inspections. The assessments assisted in determining if a structure was damaged more than 50% of its value.
“In addition to the site-specific damage assessments performed by the building inspector, entire neighborhoods located within the flood zone were evaluated for damage,” Mr. Will said.
Among the neighborhoods evaluated were the following:
• The Walking Leaf Drive, Blue Bird Lane and Hilltop Drive neighborhood.
• The South Park Lane neighborhood.
• The Graham Road and Waters Edge Drive neighborhood.
• The Newport Loop Road, Cyrus Pollard Road and Fonnie Elliot Road neighborhood.
“We had flooding not just within areas that we know are flood prone,” Mr. Will said, “but also areas that have never flooded before.”
Town officials assisted residents and business owners in making repairs as best they could. Mr. Will said they waived permit fees for repairs or replacement of structures damaged by Florence. This waiver stayed in place until Feb. 28.
“During this recovery period, the town issued 302 permits at no charge,” he said, “for everything from minor electrical repairs to home demolition and rebuilding.”
Now, more than a year after Florence, some Newport homeowners are still going through the replacement process. Mr. Will said at least a dozen mobile homes had to be condemned and removed, and “a number” of single-family homes in the flood hazard zone had to either be elevated or demolished and rebuilt above the base flood elevation.
Mr. Will said Hurricane Dorian, which passed by Carteret County just offshore late Sept. 5 and early Sept. 6, resulted in “less than half a dozen permits for repairs.”
But Mayor Dennis Barber said there’s a lesson to be learned from both Florence and Dorian.
“People need to pay attention to both (effects from) Florence and Dorian,” the mayor said, “especially when considering the need to evacuate. A storm can be unpredictable.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.