No-wake zones considered for Manteo – on downtown streets

By on October 4, 2016

Flooding is common in downtown Manteo during storms. (Kermit Skinner/Town of Manteo)

Hampton, Va. streets have no wake zones. (City of Hampton)

New signs may soon be going up in downtown Manteo that designate “No Wake” zones, but don’t look for them along the waterfront docks. Look for them on flood-prone streets.

The Manteo Board of Commissioners will consider an ordinance Wednesday, Oct. 5, that would make it illegal to drive a vehicle or cruise down a flooded street in a boat in way that could send a wake to a property owner’s doorstep.

Doing so could result in a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $250.

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Local business owners have complained recently that sightseers like to come to downtown Manteo and survey damage, driving down roads and producing wakes that can end up under the doorways of low-lying shops.

“It’s a huge problem,” says Jamie Anderson, owner of Downtown Books on Sir Walter Raleigh Street.

Anderson said that town sawhorses and barricades don’t keep curious visitors away from flooded roads.

“If we could do something to keep drivers from flying down the street and pushing water under our door, that would be great,” he said. “It’s just rude. There’s no need to be driving through when there is 12 to 15 inches of water on the road.”

Town Manager Kermit Skinner said like many storms, the most recent Tropical Storm Hermine produced some flooding that was not high enough to get into the shops, but vehicles driving through forced wakes that ended up under doorways.

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It was the last straw for some local property owners.

Paul Charron, owner of Full Moon Café and Brewery, said that just when a small shop has dodged the bullet after a storm passes, someone in a four-wheel drive comes flying by and pushes the water up into a shop.

“It almost has become an annual event,” he said.

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The ordinance that commissioners will consider is modeled after a similar one recently adopted by the City of Hampton, Va. The city put it on the books and erected signs after a resident complained last fall about cars producing wakes that ended up at her doorstep.

“This ordinance will make it illegal to drive at a speed that would create a wake,” said Skinner.

“We have more access points than sworn officers and the Public Works guys are doing a great job getting the barricades out, but people are physically moving them. And sightseers are driving in a fashion that can push another six to eight inches into a shop.”

Charron said he’d like to see an unlocked chain going across flooded roads to deter onlookers, adding that he’s not sure how effective “No Wake” signs will be.

“Drivers may not see it or think it is a joke,” Charron said.

Under the ordinance, the town manager or designee can also identify certain roads and parking lots as dangerous flood areas and prohibit parking or operating a motor vehicle or watercraft on it during the duration of the flood event.

Violators could face a $50 fine. Any vehicles stuck, parked or left can be removed and stored at the owner’s expense.

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