3 Storms in 20 years: a look at Floyd, Matthew and Florence’s impact on Fair Bluff

3 Storms in 20 years: a look at Floyd, Matthew and Florence’s impact on Fair Bluff

FAIR BLUFF, N.C. (WECT) - It’s no secret that Fair Bluff has suffered tremendously at the hands of Mother Nature recently.

Prior to hurricanes Matthew and Florence, 1999′s Hurricane Floyd was the benchmark storm. Until 2018, it was the costliest Hurricane in North Carolina, with more than $6 billion in damage.

Yet the impacts from Floyd in Fair Bluff were marginal. A couple inches of water flooded Main Street.

A Breakdown of Hurricane Floyd's Impact on Fair Bluff, NC
A Breakdown of Hurricane Floyd's Impact on Fair Bluff, NC (Source: WECT)

Measurements from Floyd were incomplete for the Lumber Basin, but the National Weather Service estimates an average of 10 inches of rain fell and the river crested at 13.6 feet at Fair Bluff itself. By comparison, western Columbus County fared better than its eastern counterparts.

Fast forward to 2016. Hurricane Matthew followed a familiar trajectory and speed as Floyd, but broke all its records.

A Breakdown of Hurricane Matthew's Impact on Fair Bluff, NC
A Breakdown of Hurricane Matthew's Impact on Fair Bluff, NC (Source: WECT)

An estimated 14 inches of rain fell in the town and the river crested at 16.65 feet, based on data from the US Geological Survey. Matthew was classified as a 500 year Flood, meaning there was a 1 in 500 or a 0.2 percent chance of happening that year.

High water closed parts of Highways 74, 701 and State Route 130. Most businesses in the downtown area were destroyed due to flooding. About 20 percent of the homes in town suffered damage.

Following Matthew, the waters receded and the town began to rebuild. Businesses, churches, and homes ravaged by flooding and high water were slowly making repairs and working to get back to normal. That all came to a screeching halt at the hands of Hurricane Florence in September 2018.

Florence was classified as a 1,000 year storm, with a 0.1 percent chance of happening.

The storm’s devastation, was due in large part, not only by its timing - coming so soon after Matthew, but its trajectory and slow-moving nature. The hurricane hit the Carolina coast nearly head on, and crawled for days following landfall, resulting in torrential rains.

A Breakdown of Hurricane Florence's Impact on Fair Bluff, NC
A Breakdown of Hurricane Florence's Impact on Fair Bluff, NC (Source: WECT)

An estimated 17 inches of rain came pouring down pushing the Lumber River to a crest of 17.03 feet.

Residents in Fair Bluff saw a 100, 500 and 1,000 year flood in just under 20 years. For many, that’s a tough equation to balance and why it’s a town in transition.

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