Major flooding in Bertie; Windsor hit hard again

Published 9:40 am Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bertie County was hit hard once again, this time with upwards to 12 inches of rain from Hurricane Matthew.

“That rain total may be more as the National Weather Service updates its data,” said John Trent, Chairman of the Bertie County Commissioners.

“I’ve only been here in Bertie County for about 15 years and we’ve had several flooding events during that time, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” Trent added. “There was standing in places I’ve never seen it.”

Due to the heavy rain, Trent said 26 roads in the county remained closed as of Sunday afternoon, to include NC 305 north of Windsor, Quebec Road, Hexlena Road, Harrells Siding Road, School Road, and Exter Road. He added that DOT was marking those roads and placing barricades as quickly as possible.

“When I spoke with (Bertie Emergency Management Director) Mitch (Cooper) around 2:30 a.m. this morning (Sunday), he said the rain at one time was falling at two inches per hour for three consecutive hours,” Trent noted. “That’s an incredible amount of rain, and it came with our ground still trying to dry out from up to 17 inches of rain that fell in parts of our county back in late September.”

Water rescues were performed across the county on Saturday night. Trent said teams were sent in to the Longbranch community in Colerain, along the canal in Aulander, and in Windsor to pick up people stranded in their homes, which were surrounded by rising water.

The county opened three shelters – Bertie Middle School, Colerain Elementary School and West Bertie Elementary School.

“We sheltered around 100 families total at those three locations,” Trent said. “Those shelters remain open at this time as we’re still experiencing flooding in our county.”

Meanwhile, power crews are fanning out all over the county to restore electricity. Trent said upwards to 4,000 Bertie homes and businesses were still without power on Sunday afternoon, most of which were impacted due to fallen trees on electrical lines.

Landline telephone service in the county is also severely impacted.

Trent said Bertie County remains under a State of Emergency and a nightly curfew is in effect.

“As expected in a storm of this magnitude with this much rain, Windsor was heavily impacted,” said Trent.

The Cashie River finally crested Sunday night at 16.67 feet, well above the flood stage of 8.0 feet.

“The river level is going down here,” said Windsor Mayor Jimmy Hoggard on Monday afternoon. “It’s going to get busy here on Tuesday at which time the water will have gone down enough to the point where the residents and business owners that were the most seriously impacted by the flood will be able to get in and begin cleaning up.”

Ironically, the U.S. Small Business Administration is scheduled to open a mobile recovery disaster unit today (Tuesday) in the parking lot of the Bertie County Department of Social Services office located at 110 Jasper Bazemore Avenue in Windsor. That unit is working on claims from the last flood (Sept. 21) and will remain open until 4 p.m. on Oct. 18.

“For (Hurricane) Matthew, I’m fairly certain that we’ll qualify for FEMA assistance, but I’m not aware at this time of exactly when they will be in Windsor,” said Hoggard. “We’ve got 40 businesses and 56 homes impacted from this hurricane.”

In the meantime, Hoggard said he and the town commissioners are discussing ways to help the downtown businesses to prevent future flooding.

“There’s nothing we can do to stop the Cashie from running over its banks, but there’s got to be something we can do to safeguard our businesses, whether that be elevating those buildings or something along those means,” Hoggard stressed. “We’ve got to save our downtown business district.”

He added the town will hire an engineering firm to study what measures can be taken to prevent future flooding damage.

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.

email author More by Cal