For Dare residents in a sea of stagnant water, help is on the way

By on August 6, 2018

Water remained Monday at the end of Bradford Lane. (Rob Morris)

For Madeleine VanMiddlesworth and her husband, walking the dogs these days means putting on chest waders and carrying their two 70-pound huskies to dry land over filthy floodwater surrounding their Roanoke Island home.

Their septic system is submerged, so a 5-gallon bucket serves as the bathroom. She showers twice a week at her job. Gracious neighbors open their homes for washing clothes, and they use a 10-gallon tub of water to wash dishes.

“We go to work, return home, put our waders back on and see that the water has barely receded a centimeter,” she told the Dare County Board of Commissioners Monday.

The VanMiddlesworths, whose home is in “the hot spot” on Langey Lane, were among numerous residents on the north side of Roanoke Island whose properties were swamped by up to 20 inches of rain at the end of July.

Madeleine VanMiddlesworth, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child, joined other property owners to implore the board to do something about the flooding problem.

“We both work below-average-income jobs as biologists, often more than 50 hours a week, doing several hours of manual labor handling live animals — not exactly jobs you want to have if you do not have septic use at your home,” she said.

Even before the speakers marched before the board, the county was already looking into the complaints. County Manager Bobby Outten said that two tanker trucks were available in Virginia Beach and on their way Monday afternoon to start pumping out water and hauling it away.

The state Forest Service had also arrived to look at using their heavy-duty pumps to pull water out of neighborhoods along Brakewood Road, Daphne Lane and Holly Ridge.

“You’re exactly right, everyone who spoke this morning. This is unacceptable,” said board Chairman Bob Woodard.

The county had worked to get water moving, he said, including through state-owned culverts.

“It doesn’t please me to see that these ditches and culverts are not maintained,” Woodard said. “Keep in mind, once again, state-owned property, state stuff. But we want to do what we can as the county to prevent this from ever happening again.”

The county does not own pumps powerful enough to move water through pipes 1,000 feet to a drainage ditch on the nearby airport property once flooding occurs, Outten said.

“Over the last week or 10 days, we’ve had our Public Works staff out there almost every day trying to find ways to solve the problem,” he said. “What we found is, it’s like squeezing a balloon. If you solve a problem in once place, you create a problem in another place.”

Old pipes and ditches remain in the area, which is mostly new development, but they are clogged or broken and overrun with weeds. Those that are functional, basically move water in a circle.

“We don’t have a system in Dare County that’s engineered or designed to handle that capacity, and certainly the areas on the north end of Roanoke Island are not designed for that,” Outten said.

Allen Moran, the region’s representative on the state Board of Transportation, told commissioners that an engineering study has been ordered to examine the hydrology of the area as a first step to addressing the drainage problem.

A preliminary review, he said, showed that neighborhoods northwest of Airport Road were designed with ditches and swales intended to allow rainwater to soak into the soil. But there are no drainage outlets.

“Obviously with the groundwater being high with 20 inches of rain, that system doesn’t work,” he said.

The study, he said, should take about two weeks and will offer three or four options for drainage as well as cost estimates.

“No matter what happens, as far as whatever option comes up,” he said, “there’s not a system that’s going to be designed that can handle 20 inches of rain and make everybody completely dry.”

Flooding last week on northern Roanoke Island. (Wilton Wescott video)

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  • charlie

    Has anyone seen the state actually clean out ditches and culverts????
    Baum Bay hasn’t…
    Any other area want to join in?

    Monday, Aug 6 @ 4:46 pm
  • gsurf123

    I’m on HI and they do it at least once per year. No amount of clean out could have handled the rain over the last few weeks. We live in what was/is a swamp. Prior to wetland laws being enacted and later enforced filling was the only way to make the land usable. When the wetlands are filled the water has no place to go and all of the paved surfaces add to the problem.

    Monday, Aug 6 @ 7:21 pm
  • Mike Gaskill

    How about the residents of stumpy point? Why does NCDOT pay another county DOT office (HYDE) $40,000 a year to maintain most of mainland Dare County? Where is our county officials on this ? Besides running a water and sewer plant, dare county refuses to assist our community in anything . But the NCDOT refuses to dig , maintain or install new culverts in Stumpy Point. We were 2 days behind the rest of dare county last winter with snow removal. Let four yards flood in Manteo and engineering project studies are being discussed. Let’s not pay our our property taxes and all of a sudden Dare County remembers we still live here. Stop wasting money on parks and unneeded county positions. Invest in infrastructure. Show citizens in my community you actually care for a change.

    Monday, Aug 6 @ 10:15 pm
  • Phronjia

    Many of us now in a sea of poo water grew up here. Ditches were maintained by prison work crews. If memory serves correct the main Ditches along the main highway corridor on Roanoke Island have not been dug out in DECADES. This is not acceptable. We pay taxes, insurance and work for a small percentage of the national poverty income. All,of the plans to evaluate are great. Follow-through is required. This cannot be tolerated to continue happening. Every single street on Roanoke Island North of the Wanchese intersection must have Ditches dug immediately. Someone mentioned that the county can’t afford this. Really? But the county can afford all sorts of festivals, celebrations, and tourist attracting functions. Don’t do any more of these and divert the funding to protect the residents and homes. For the record – if the average people are forced out of Dare County how will the work get done? How many tourists will visit our island if they realized the stench in the air is the lack of planning and substantial incompetence in refusing to plan for water dispersion. Make no mistake it is as SIMPLE as DIGGING THE DITCHES.

    Monday, Aug 6 @ 10:20 pm
  • Native Outer Banker

    The affected properties used to naturally drain into the marshy area between Sunnyside and the Harvey family Croatan development. The developments that were built north and west of the airport road added fill dirt and effectually blocked the natural drainage for the currently flooded areas. The sea level elevation is high but they are situated in a bowl that now holds water for a long time. An environmental engineer can figure out where the culverts need to be installed.

    Tuesday, Aug 7 @ 8:20 am
  • Ashley Croswait

    We are not in a flood zone, insurance tells us we do not have flood insurance to help with cost of damage. How are we supposed to recover from this??? All of my families heirloom plants and trees have been killed, all plants and grass for that matter. You literally sink in the land, the water is so toxic it leaves a rash on your skin. The back yard is floating septic water (human waste) and we just got it pumped 3 weeks ago 350$! All of my kids toys are completely ruined and nothing is going to replace it. We are at a huge loss. Toilets won’t flush how are we supposed to recover from this?? Mosquitos and millions of abnoxiosly loud frogs at dark. And the smell is worst than all of it combined. Water still sitting we are turning into a toxic lake every minute. Depressing is an understatement. Not the way anyone should be ending their summer. We are completely defeated here on Holly ridge road.

    Tuesday, Aug 7 @ 9:21 am
  • Gail Sabato

    I live on Clamshell in Kill Devil Hills. We purchased our house in August 2016. Our entire yard got flooded covering our septic tank and our sewer lines. Our yard flooded the first week of the down pour and was almost gone when the second down pour came and flooded us again. It has taken a week for it to reside. This storm water is coming into our yard from Creek Road. We have no storm water drainage on our roads that I can see or know where they are located? How does a builder obtain a building permit without the county making sure the lot drains properly. I am just curious. We all need to pull together until something is done about all this flooding and storm drainage issues.

    Gail Sabato

    Tuesday, Aug 7 @ 9:58 am
  • Manteo Guy

    Digging ditches is not always the answer. Digging a ditch in low lying areas just hold water. Then everyone will be whining about the mosquitos or the smell from the stagnant water. Low lying areas are going to flood. I lived on Holly Ridge for 18 years with no flooding, ever. Yes overdevelopment is an issue, but it is low and always will be until it is totally filled in.

    Tuesday, Aug 7 @ 12:57 pm
  • Ozzy3

    You can all blame your county and town planning departments. If they would have done their jobs when building permits were applied for, we wouldn’t have these drainage issues. The problem is over development and no engineered infrastructure. I have been pumping water for 10 days because the county allowed my neighbor to put in a pool without thought to where the water would go when it rained. Greed, pure and simple!

    Tuesday, Aug 7 @ 1:01 pm
  • Local

    Neighbors raised the lots on either side at least 4 to 5 feet over 10 years ago. I’ve been fighting the Town since then. My house is sitting in a bowl created with the help of the Town of Nags Head. I called, begged, pleaded…nothing was done. No regulations in place to protect existing properties. The rental homes were allowed to drown me out. Zero stormwater systems in place. County staff came out and told me what I could do with my flooded property, but required nothing of the neighbors. It is 2018 and they are just starting to take this seriously. Keep talking, we must make this a priority!

    Tuesday, Aug 7 @ 2:44 pm
  • OBX Native

    I truly feel all those going through this. But grand dad told me to drive around and look at property after rain before we bought land to build on. Old times knew about the Alder Branch, and underground river on the north end of Roanoke Island and how it sometime become above ground, like now. In our haste to build and to produce flood maps, who is looking at historical data? Maybe a closer look needs to be taken at perk tests and what a “build-able” lot is. While it needs to be fixed so that peoples lives can get back to normal, a comprehensive plan is needed to prevent this happening again and again. I saw one end of the discharge line today going into the ditch. That’s not right either. This is nasty contaminated water. It needs to be hauled to a sewage treatment plant not pumped into the ditch to flood someone else’s yard.

    Tuesday, Aug 7 @ 8:00 pm
  • Manteobxr

    Meanwhile in California……….

    Wednesday, Aug 8 @ 7:23 am
  • Linda

    I live on Ketch lane and my house backs up to the canal that runs under First St. During the storm a couple years ago where the water was going over Landing Dr. in the curve, the canal acquired enough sand so that now there is grass and pine trees starting to grow in the middle. And now after all the rain it looks like more sand has been deposited in the canal. The canal is a part of our storm water drainage and I’ve brought this to the attention of the town to no avail. They say the area is an easement governed by the state. The state says it belongs to me…?? Oh, and they can’t do anything about it as they dont’ have proper access. I offered access through my yard but nope.

    Wednesday, Aug 8 @ 8:09 am
  • joseph wilson

    Had this problem for years.Went to county about problem they sent me to NCDOT.NCDOT sent me right back to county .Both told me they had nothing to do with my problem but i pay my taxes for this.

    Thursday, Aug 9 @ 6:49 pm