Residents blame mismanaged stormwater system for Florence flooding
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The National Hurricane Center and local meteorologists predicted widespread flooding from Hurricane Florence.
However, the heavy rainfall caused water to rise in areas that have never seen flooding before, and while the volume of water is partially to blame, at least a few residents are also blaming mismanaged stormwater infrastructure and widespread development.
Ten homes in the Tidalholm Village neighborhood were severely damaged in the wake of Florence. None of them were in a known floodplain or had flood insurance.
Jackie Autry, who lives on Lipscomb Drive in the community, said he has lived on the property since 1999. Even when Hurricane Floyd came through a few months after he moved in, the water didn't rise nearly as high as it did during Florence.
Once Florence's eyewall passed on Friday, Sept. 14, Autry said he thought the worst of it was over. A tree had fallen on the side of his house, but otherwise everything was fine.
At 2 a.m. Saturday morning, he said he woke up and realized his neighbors were out in the street with flashlights trying to evacuate people from homes as the water quickly rose around them. He took the time to move his vehicles, and by the time he got back, water was already rushing into his home.
Autry said he, his wife and their cats climbed up to the second floor of their home and waited for the sun to come up. They then were able to get to their neighbor's house that wasn't flooding, and escape the neighborhood through the back.
Autry said that he thinks the issue lies in an outflow pipe behind the neighborhood that is obstructed by debris, and the inability for that pipe to drain caused the water to back up into the neighborhood. While the 20-30 inches of water was unprecedented, Autry said his neighbors had already complained to New Hanover County about water backing up during the heavy rain in July.
It's because of that advanced notice that Autry says he thinks the flooding could have been avoided.
"This was unnecessary, there are 10, 11 homes flooded, and families uprooted for no reason," he said. "If that had been maintained, and I'm not sure who owns it, whose job it is to maintain it, but it was not built correctly in my opinion, number one, because of what I see now. Now when we open it up, maybe they'll be something different. But I just feel it was unnecessary. That's what the worst thing about it is."
Autry said he was waiting to hear back from the county about if it is their responsibility, but that in his opinion, something needs to be done before flooding like this happens again.