Flood of the Century – times three

Published 10:22 am Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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, prior to Floyd, last 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 third time in a short 17 years, we all witnessed yet another major flooding event.

While there were isolated pockets of flooding in eastern Northampton County, and low-lying sections of Hertford and Gates County and parts of Bertie – especially in the Colerain area, this latest storm pasted yet another bulls eye on Windsor.

Floyd dumped around 20 inches of rain in the same area in ’99. In late September of 2010, five straight days of rain produced 18 inches turning the normally tranquil Cashie River into a something that resembled a white water rapids trip to Colorado.

Now, another late September soaker – this one three days of rain last week associated with what was left of Tropical Storm Julia – produced approximately 17 inches of the wet stuff.

In all three 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, not twice, but three times – 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. The same occurred in the storm of 2010. How many will stick around and tough it out this time?

There was a study conducted five-or-so years after Floyd by the US Army Corps of Engineers concerning the design of 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 five million dollars….money they couldn’t afford without drastically raising taxes.

Fast forward to 2016. 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. They need something permanent to hold back the Cashie River.

Some may say that current-day Windsor residents will never again see another huge flood in their lifetime. If you do the math….with Floyd counted as a “500-year” flood and the last two as “100-year” events, then the next one isn’t due until 2699.

But knowing Windsor’s luck like we all do, none of us should hold our breath until then.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com 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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