With possible permanent fix for the White Oak Dike still far in the future, Kelly braces for another season of storms

A study is now underway but a permanent fix for the White Oak Dike is far in the future
Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 7:23 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KELLY, N.C. (WECT) - In many ways, the community of Kelly in Bladen County looks very much the same as it did right after Hurricane Florence.

Flooded houses remain abandoned, sand that spilled out of the Cape Fear River still fills ditches and low-lying areas, and the White Oak Dike is still full of trees and riddled with tire tracks.

Charles Russ with the Kelly Dike and Drainage District said he thinks the community will weather another hurricane season in decent shape—as long as any storms this season aren’t a repeat of Hurricane Florence.

“We feel pretty good about it, but we cannot withstand 30 inches of rain. We’re gonna have problems if we have that again," Russ said.

That’s because the dike has only been repaired to the point before Florence’s flood waters busted at least 17 holes in it, exposing to citizens and leaders the poor shape the piece of infrastructure has been in for the last three decades.

The path to a full fix, however, will be long.

Russ said the engineering firm hired by Bladen County—and paid for by money from the state—only just began studying the dike in May.

That firm, Catlin Engineering from Wilmington, has until May 2021 to complete that study and formulate a plan.

The process isn’t cheap.

“It’s very expensive," Russ said. "We got money from the state and $300,000 to do the study with...and we’re probably talking about millions of dollars to do the other.”

Experts at the Army Corps of Engineers, which originally built the dike, estimate repairing it to full functionality will cost upward of $30 million.

With a permanent solution more than a year away, Kelly is facing Hurricane Season 2020 with only the patched dike as protection from the Cape Fear river.

That risk has led some in the community to think twice about returning, meaning the scars of Florence go beyond the physical damage still visible.

“Some people are back, some aren’t coming back, and some are just in the process of getting in right now," Russ said. "It’s a real real slow thing. We’ve lost some families out the neighborhood to other other counties, you know, and just, just relocating, don’t want to take the chance again.”

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.