Studies seek to limit flood damage


Staff Writer

Monday, May 21, 2018

State flood studies have identified ways to better protect communities along the Tar River hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew.

State officials conducted a six-month study of the Tar River Basin running through Louisburg, Nashville, Rocky Mount, Nashville, Tarboro, Princeville, Greenville and other communities out to Little Washington.

The study examined four strategies to reduce future flood impacts, including river flow diversion, dam removal, detention facilities and property mitigation of flood-prone homes, according to the report. Two other reports offer strategies to prevent future flood damage along the Lumber and Neuse rivers. The 109-page Tar River report is attached to the online version of this article.

“Hurricane Matthew devastated communities along our rivers and showed us that we must rebuild better and smarter to withstand future floods,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “Many communities are seeing more frequent and intense floods, and we need to help communities plan now.”

Cooper directed N.C. Emergency Management to collaborate with partners including the N.C. Department of Transportation, N.C. State University, East Carolina University and local officials to identify and assess ways to better prepare for and prevent flooding in communities in the three river basins.

The studies determined primary sources and impacts of flooding and identified possible strategies to prevent future flood damage. As part of the analysis, engineers met with community residents and local officials heavily impacted by recent flooding to better understand how various flood levels affected them. Then, the team worked with local and federal partners to assess specific mitigation measures for each river basin.

The teams determined the most viable options for each river basin and conducted a thorough analysis of benefits, estimated costs and anticipated timeframes for each strategy under a dozen or more likely flood scenarios. While each of the river basin studies evaluated different strategies, some common findings emerged:

■ Property mitigation — elevating, acquiring or relocating existing structures — is the most cost-effective way to save the largest number of properties in the shortest time.

■ Further study is needed to evaluate how other communities across the country fund and manage flood mitigation projects.

■ Additional investigation is needed of flood-proofing solutions — especially for commercial and public structures.

About 800 properties across Central and Eastern North Carolina are already scheduled for elevation, acquisition or relocation via the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program as part of continuing Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts.

“There is an old axiom about health that also applies to disaster recovery: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” N.C. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said. “Taking steps now to reduce flood impacts will help North Carolina bounce back better from future natural disasters — especially in vulnerable communities along these river basins.”