Hurricane Matthew redevelopment continues across county

Published 2:54 pm Saturday, July 15, 2017

At least 288 houses in Tyrrell County were impacted by Hurricane Matthew last October, North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) reported recently.

Thirty-eight percent of the individual assistance flood damage claims were for houses situated inside Columbia.

A survey by the NCEM team, local officials and others, published in a document titled “Tyrrell County Resilient Redevelopment Plan, May 2017,” reveals that approximately 1,500 homes in the county were built before the flood damage prevention ordinance was enacted, and many are at risk of flooding unless they are elevated.

The largest numbers of homes subject to future flooding are in Alligator, along Albemarle Sound, and in the town of Columbia, the report states.

A Hurricane Matthew economic impact identified by local officials is that the Gum Neck dike is inadequate for Matthew-level flooding. The dike protects about 100 single family homes and 15,000 acres of cropland.

And they reported road closures up to 17 days, with detour routes up to 45 miles in length, disrupting or delaying emergency services and the economy.

Two of the greatest areas of concern in the wake of the storm are county infrastructure and public safety.

The new Regional Emergency Communications Center at Manteo, which dispatches for Dare, Hyde and Tyrrell counties and the towns in them, is also the Emergency Operations Center. A safety concern is that “the facility lacks a satellite-based 911 backup system and reverse 911 system, which threatens the ability of residents to request emergency services during periods of power outages and the ability of the County to warn residents of danger,” the report states.

Road overtopping is a common occurrence in Tyrrell County, and flooding was reported near the canal that parallels Goat Neck and Pledger Harbor roads, and road crossings of Grindle Hill Canal, Riders Creek, and of canals that connect Lake Phelps and South Fork Creek.

The report also states that “U.S. Route 64 to the west of the Town of Columbia blocks the natural flow of floodwaters and causes tremendous flooding on its north side.”

County employees encountered three major problems in county facilities during and after Matthew:

(1) The Courthouse Annex was not usable due to flooding, and it was found that “utility systems and [emergency generator] switches need to be elevated above flood waters.”

(2) The Department of Social Services building of Main Street was flooded and severely damaged, forcing staff into temporary quarters. (This privately owned building is being restored to enable DSS to move back in.)

(3) The County Utilities and Maintenance facility on Main Street was flooded and severely damaged, as was the Cooperative Extension Service offices on Martha Street and the Senior Center on Bridge Street.

Environmental damage caused by Hurricane Matthew included pollution of land and water wells due to septic system failures and continued shoreline erosion along Bulls Bay, the report states.

The worst areas of shoreline erosion are from Folly Landing to Bulls Bay Road and from Legion Beach to Waterfront Road, NCEM reported.

Redevelopment strategies

The team came up with 15 strategies for resilient redevelopment in Tyrrell County. Top five are:

(1) Build a new, elevated structure with a back-up generator on U.S. Route 64 on county-owned property where all agencies can be relocated.

(2) Elevate 20 older homes in Goat Neck.

(3) Elevate 20 older homes along Albemarle Sound between Rhodes Haven and Pledger Harbor.

(4) Elevate 20 older homes in Columbia.

(5) Rebuild section of SR 1209/ Road Street in Columbia (a project this is being pursued).