Plan now for next ‘500-year’ flood

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The chance of experiencing another flood measuring close to Hurricane Floyd’s magnitude within the life cycle of those of still breathing was, at best, about as probable as NASA landing a manned spacecraft on Jupiter.

Remember Hurricane Floyd back in 1999? All the weather experts said the floodwaters resulting from that massive rainmaker occur about once every 500 years.

With that logic, I guess what is now modern-day Windsor, NC was swamped by river water seven years after Christopher Columbus figured that Earth wasn’t flat and sailed from Spain to the American continents.

Remind me not to wager any money based on what the weather experts say about the frequency of catastrophic flooding events in northeastern North Carolina.

Last week, for the second time in a short 11 years, we all witnessed a “500-year” flooding event.

The good folks over in the town of Windsor once again witnessed what 18-plus inches of rain, this time falling over a period of five consecutive days, will do to the normally tranquil Cashie River. During Floyd, Windsor reportedly received nearly 16.5 inches of rain over a very short period of time.

In both cases, the Cashie River simply could not handle all that water. The Cashie, which by the way is the only river in the entire state to begin and end within the borders of a single county (Bertie), runs deep and slow.

The scary thought in this is how many more punches can Windsor’s residents and business owners take before they fail to get up by the proverbial “10-count?”

With the majority being raised in a time when agriculture was king and work days from sunrise to sunset were the norm, the folks in the heart of Bertie County are resilient in nature. But it’s tough, extremely tough, to pour your heart and soul, not to mention hard-earned dollars, into maintaining a business or a home in a rural area and then have to dig deep – not once, but twice – and start all over again.

In the wake of Hurricane Floyd, the town saw some business owners choosing not to re-open while a few residents bolted for higher ground. How many will stick around and tough it out this time?

The question burning in the back of my mind is what could have been done between Floyd and present-day to protect Windsor from Mother Nature’s wrath?

I posed that question to former Windsor Mayor Bob Spivey on Sunday following a press conference held by Governor Bev Perdue as she stood just a few yards away from the floodwater covering one section of downtown.

Bob, who retired last year, told me there was a study performed by the US Army Corps of Engineers about five-or-so years after Hurricane Floyd. A plan was designed to construct a dike or a levee, one that would start from the area of Davis Park and follow the river bank to the bridge adjacent to Water Street.

That plan, with some funding from the U.S. Government, would have cost the Town of Windsor in the neighborhood of two million dollars….money they couldn’t afford without drastically raising taxes.

Fast forward to 2010. Now facing a major recovery effort following another catastrophic flood, the town desperately needs state and federal government to step to the plate…and not with low interest loans.

Let’s see if someone can entice the First Family to cancel their next planned vacation to France, or encourage Nancy Pelosi, the next time she goes home to California, to fly commercial rather than in her expensive, taxpayer funded jumbo jet. Either of those luxuries could easily build multiple levees in Windsor.

Better yet, allow Windsor to briefly change its name to New Orleans and sit back and watch the money roll in.

Hopefully, something can be done soon….the next “500-year” flood is due in 2021.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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