Belhaven discusses how to improve flood response

Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BELHAVEN — As Belhaven continues to deal with the aftermath of flooding from Hurricane Joaquin, town officials are looking to better prepare for the next time.

Low-lying areas in the town remained underwater for several days last week, including Main Street, and left many residents with few options for travel.

Although flooding is not new to Belhaven, town manager Woody Jarvis discussed the need to improve the town’s preparedness at a Board of Aldermen meeting on Monday night.

He said one of the main problems during cleanup was people coming from outside of the town to look at the floodwaters.

On Oct. 5, Beaufort County Emergency Management released a statement discouraging outside visitors from traveling to flooded areas due to the continuing damage the vehicles were causing.

“Wave action from vehicles is causing unnecessary damage to flooded property. Extra traffic in flooded areas also is hindering the efforts of property owners to relocate their property to higher ground,” the release stated.

“We probably had a half a dozen folks out looking at floodwater who don’t even live in town,” Jarvis said at Monday’s meeting. “Other coastal communities have access ordinances that allow for posting of the affected streets and give the police the power to (give tickets).”

He asked the Board of Aldermen to allow the town attorney to draft an ordinance allowing the police to keep traffic from flooded roads and set up road barricades if needed. The police officers would use their discretion in allowing what traffic can pass based on residency and the need to be there, Jarvis said.

Mayor Adam O’Neal instead suggested a motion be made to allow Jarvis to look into the cost of the barricades and report back to the board before moving forward with an ordinance. The board unanimously approved the motion. Vic Cox and Tony Williams were absent.

“We’re probably going to have to invest in some barricades,” Jarvis said, adding that the goal is not to discourage visitors from the town. “We don’t want to be unfriendly, and we don’t want to be unwelcoming.”

He also suggested providing trucks for the police department along with the Dodge Chargers to help officers better navigate flooded roads, as well as potentially raising Main Street to a higher elevation.

Jarvis said he thinks the elevation changes would help businesses bounce back after a storm, instead of experiencing severe losses as they did last week.

“We have seen a lot of long faces and a lot of disappointed folks,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this amount of water hang around for this long.”