Flood mapping process underway

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2005

WINDSOR – Since 1989, North Carolina has experienced over 20 federally declared natural disasters. Perhaps none were larger in scope than the flooding left in the wake of Hurricane Floyd.

That one disaster dumped an estimated 20 inches of rain over eastern North Carolina on Sept. 16-17, 1999. Coupled with an already saturated ground thanks to Hurricane Dennis a few weeks earlier, the area’s rivers, creeks and streams could not support Floyd’s torrid rainfall.

An entire neighborhood in Ahoskie now lies vacant because of the storm. Floodwaters from the Cashie River covered block after block of historic downtown Windsor.

Now, six years later, the state is in the process of updating its antiquated floodplain maps in hopes of protecting lives and property in the event of another &uot;Floyd.&uot;

On Monday, the Bertie County Board of Commissioners were updated on this ongoing process, one under the direction of the State Flood Mapping Office. Cassandre Haynesworth represented that office at Monday’s meeting in Windsor.

She explained to the county’s elected leaders that Bertie was part of both the Roanoke and Chowan river basins, one of 15 basins statewide. The Roanoke-Chowan basin is currently a work in progress as far as new flood maps are concerned. Haynesworth said a copy of the basin plan should be completed by the summer. Then, following public comment, contractors will begin their survey and engineering work.

The end result will produce a digitalized map that incorporates base information (existing roads, public and private), topography info, elevation data, soil data, surface waterways, town boundaries and aerial imaging. Those maps, available to county personnel, will show detailed areas of 500, 100, 50 and 10-year flood elevations.

&uot;What we are after here is to provide accurate and efficient maps that will allow you and the citizens of this county to know in advance of where the problem areas are located,&uot; Haynesworth said. &uot;Right now we know there are problem areas. What we don’t know is how badly they will flood under extreme circumstances.&uot;

Haynesworth also noted that the knowledge gain from the maps would prevent citizens from purchasing property in a known flood zone, thus helping reduce the burden on a property owner to purchase flood insurance.

In addition, the information garnered from the aerial and ground surveys in Bertie County will become a part of the state’s Floodplain Mapping Program website (www.ncfloodmaps.com). Flood warnings will become more accurate with the use of these updated maps.

All totaled, 57 stream miles will be carefully studied in Bertie County. The cost is an estimated $1,000 per mile, paid by the state.

In answering a question from Commissioner Wallace Perry, Haynesworth said beaver dams in the county would not be taken into consideration in the study.

To date, study work has been completed and effective maps are available in the Tar-Pamlico, Lumber and Pasquotank river basins. Work is ongoing in the Neuse, White Oak, Cape Fear, Yadkin and New river basins as well as the Roanoke and Chowan areas. The western regions of the state are included in Phase III of the project.