Gauges indicate flooding in sounds, creeks may have peaked

By on September 18, 2018

Water covers streets and yards in the Beechwood Shores neighborhood near Snowden in Currituck County. (Scott Baker)

Slow going on Colington Road Tuesday. (Rob Morris)

Flood gauges along the North Landing River and Currituck Sound show that the high water associated with Hurricane Florence during the past several days has reached a peak and is starting to drop.

But it may be several days before neighborhoods along the sounds, rivers, bays and creeks will see the water recede after it covered roads, entered homes and compromised septic systems from Moyock to Manteo on Sunday and Monday.

A NOAA flood gauge at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla reached peak level of 2.86 feet above normal Monday evening. It was down to 2.45 feet Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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At the Northwest River Bridge in Chesapeake, the peak of 2.69 feet was recorded Tuesday around 8 a.m., and had fallen to 2.56 feet at 6 p.m.

The gauge at the North Landing River Bridge reached a peak of 4.78 feet on Tuesday at 6 a.m., and had dropped slightly 12 hours later.

Observing the direction of the water moving through the Coinjock Cut of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, which connects Currituck Sound and the North River, the flow appears to have started heading slowly south despite winds from the opposite direction.

Flood water in the Pamlico Sound from the southern rivers — the main culprit behind the minor flooding on this end of the coast — should start moving more easily out of inlets now that ocean waves have subsided.

A wind shift to the northeast Wednesday will increase surf levels but at the same time help move the water toward the inlets.

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However that wind shift has some on the opposite end of the Outer Banks along the soundside of Hatteras Island to express concern, and prepare for possible water intrusion at ground level.

Many started moving items up and parking their vehicles on higher ground to avoid the possibility of minor flooding overnight and on Wednesday.

While some say the water intrusion into homes and businesses has been the worst they have seen, records indicate that the flooding associated with Hurricane Irene was much worse.

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The North Landing River Bridge gauged peaked during that storm at 10.21 feet on August 29, 2011. The all-time record at the station was set on August 20, 1989 at 15.41 feet.

Currituck has placed high-clearance vehicles strategically throughout the county if they’re needed, said Emergency Management Director Mary Beth Mewns.

“People need to be very cautious when driving,” Mewns said. “Avoid water-covered roadways, especially in low riding vehicles.”

Residents on the Dare County mainland are reporting  yards full of water, and have parked vehicles along the shoulders of U.S. 64, which is the only high spot in East Lake.

Scott Small’s hand-painted sign on West Kitty Hawk Road hasn’t slowed down motorists. (Heather Beatty)

On the Outer Banks side of the sounds, water levels have risen and fallen with the lunar tide. High tide on Wednesday is roughly around 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Colington and Roanoke Island.

The tide gauge in the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center harbor peaked at 2.88 feet above normal Tuesday morning, and is predicted to inch down to 2.5 feet on Wednesday.

It is not unusual for the water to come up on the soundside after a tropical cyclone has crossed coastal North Carolina. Nevertheless, locals are concerned that it could get worse before it gets better.

Residents in Walnut Island in Grandy and on Bells Island in Currituck said the water had infiltrated the ground levels of their homes, forcing them to leave for their neighbors’ houses on higher ground.

Some living in Walnut Island also said their aging sewer system was backing up into their tubs.

Mewns said residents who feel they’re in danger in their homes can call Currituck Department of Social Services with shelter requests at 252-232-3083.

“The winds will be changing direction tonight into tomorrow, which will bring some relief but (the weather service) reported the water will recede slowly,” Mewns said.

Water has covered a number of secondary roads in Colington, Kitty Hawk, Grandy, Waterlily, Bells Island, Sligo and Moyock.

Currituck County Schools will be operating on a 2-hour delay at the high schools on Wednesday, as middle and elementary schools have a prescheduled teacher workday.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Schools will open one hour late, and noted in their statement that water levels were also dropping there.

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