Flooding after Matthew recalls past storms

Published 8:19 pm Thursday, October 13, 2016

As floodwaters from farther inland trickle down toward the coast, residents of low-lying areas in Beaufort County are keeping an eye out for rising water levels.

The severe flooding brought on by Hurricane Matthew last week, followed by rising river levels and even more flooding this week, has led many residents to recall the events of 1999’s Hurricane Floyd and 2011’s Hurricane Irene.

The Town of Chocowinity was lucky during those devastating years of tropical weather-related flooding, being located on higher ground, and the same has held true this time around, as well, according to Mayor James Mobley.

“We don’t have any flooding,” Mobley said Thursday afternoon. “We’re on high ground here. … We’re not in a flood zone.”

Although Chocowinity is faring well, Beaufort County Emergency Management warned residents around Aurora, Belhaven, Pamlico Beach and Pantego about the potential for more flooding.

Belhaven Manager Woody Jarvis, who used to work with the Department of Transportation in Pitt County, said he remembers Floyd and Irene well.

Jarvis said Hurricane Irene was one of the more devastating storms to pass through Belhaven, dumping rain and producing tropical storm-force winds for close to 24 hours straight.

“Irene is probably the highest water that this area has had since Hazel in 1954,” he said. “Matthew is more like Floyd, but Matthew has not been as bad as Floyd for this area because the rivers are so much wider down here in the eastern part of the county.”

Jarvis said Belhaven still has some “nuisance flooding,” and residents aren’t expecting to see higher floodwaters unless the wind changes to an eastward direction.

“It’s better this evening,” Jarvis said Thursday night. “The streets are open at the moment.”

At about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the Pungo River at Belhaven was listed under the “action stage” at 1.52 feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Flood stage for Pungo River is 2 feet, and it crested at a dangerous 3.17 feet in October 2015.

The Pamlico River at Washington was also well below flood stage as of Thursday night, measuring 3.4 feet, according NOAA data. Flood stage for the Pamlico is 4.5 feet. The river has been known to rise substantially after tropical weather, flooding at 8.14 feet in 1999 and 7.53 feet in 2011.

Aurora was hit hard by Hurricane Irene, as well, with floodwaters ruining some of the small town’s historic treasures, including its library, which held old newspaper articles, oral histories and thousands of books.

Mayor Clif Williams was not available to comment for this article.

Beaufort County remained under a flood warning Thursday, which was set to expire at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Emergency officials are remaining vigilant and ready for action should conditions worsen.