Flood mitigation efforts underway as Whiteville prepares for summer storms, rainfall

Flood mitigation efforts underway as Whiteville prepares for summer storms, rainfall
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:49 PM EDT
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WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) - Without proper drainage systems, just a few inches of rain could be enough to cover Whiteville’s roads with water.

City Manager Darren Currie says work is underway to keep that water flowing away from the city’s most important streets.

“What we’re trying to address are those thunderstorms that come in, those two-or-three inch thunderstorms that come in the summer. And they dump a bunch of rain on us in a 30-minute or an hour period,” said Currie.

Emergency Services Director Hal Lowder says work continues in the swamps surrounding the city. Crews want to clear fallen logs and trees and keep them from clogging the flow of water. Lowder says that as the water in the swamps rises, it can back up into the city.

“It’s just like in your drain,” said Lowder. “You know, when your drain gets clogged in the bathroom, it’s slow, and you want to clean that out and it moves faster. And so, that’s what we’re doing. We’re cleaning out the swamp so we can get the water out of town. Some of the projects we’re doing here gets it off the streets into the swamp, now we’ve got to get it out of the swamp and get it on downstream.”

Lowder says keeping water out of the city, which became severely flooded during Hurricane Florence, is crucial in an emergency.

“It all creates a problem as it backs up to us,” said Lowder. “During Florence and Matthew, we saw that we were restricted trying to move ambulances into town. So, you know, we were shut down on three sides. So, it does create a problem with moving through town.”

Whiteville is partnering with researchers at the NC State Coastal Design Lab to identify projects to help with the city’s flood resiliency. Currie says these efforts will help, but no solution is perfect.

“We’re really trying to mitigate as much as we can mitigate, knowing that if a Matthew or Florence comes back in, conceivably there’s nothing we can do to stop that,” said Currie. “There’s going to be flooding.”

Whiteville is using state grants and funds to help pay for these projects. Currie says researchers with NC State are expected to present a flood print plan to the city council next month.