The Newport River overflows its banks, stretching well beyond the boat ramp on Chatham Street last September following Hurricane Florence. (Cheryl Burke photo)

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 mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

(2) comments

sick and tired

Build some more high rise bridges, more condos, more houses, fill in some more wetlands, and this is what you will see more of. "Places that never flooded before" Well, my goodness, the water does have to go somewhere doesn't it? If you fill in the areas that the water usually goes, it will find somewhere else to go. Hate to say I told you so but I told you so. Everybody wanted that bridge, wanted more homes, more development. I said YEARS ago, if you build it you will see areas underwater that you never saw before because simple science the water has to go somewhere.

Concerned local

I have to agree about all the building and housing developments causing flooding in places that have never been flooded. More thought should be placed on how construction will effect where water ends up. I have lived in newport almost 40 years and never seen it flood cedar grove cemetery until last year. Also ditches need to be dug out and deeper. We need to preserve more land, and stop filling in wet lands to build on,just so we can line people's pocket...same thing going on in Pollock's ville. DMV caused a huge mess from the new by- pass...

Welcome to the discussion.

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