EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK: Rains bring flooding to Wrightsville Beach, but dunes hold back ocean; officials optimistic about recovery


The noontime high tide brought with it flood waters that overtook parts of Wrightsville Beach on Friday afternoon, reaching more than a foot in some places. However, the ocean was held back by the dunes, town officials said, which could serve to help minimize the impact of the flooding. Depending on the timing of Duke Power crews, residents could return to the island as early as  Monday, town manager Tim Owens said.
Winds took down scattered trees and power lines across the island, Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said. However, with damage not reaching the extensive levels feared from Hurricane Florence when it was a Category 4 storm, the town may not need to bring in storm recovery specialist contractors, meaning a faster re-entry for residents, Owens said.
A Lumina News reporter was granted an exclusive tour of the island with town officials. While there was scattered debris across the island and a handful of trees knocked down in several places, the damage to buildings appeared minimal, though several houses and buildings lost gutters, shingles and siding. It’s unclear if the flooding of the central business district and other places breached the sandbags and boards set up to protect the structure.
Before residents can return, crews from Duke Power will have to inspect and remove downed electric cables to render the island safe. Wrightsville Beach officials said the earliest that Duke Power crews could be there are Saturday night, with Monday being the potential earliest times for residents to return.
“It’s just a matter of getting the power back on,” Owens said. “But this system has to move on first.”
A key benchmark for a return to the island will be whether the midnight high tide brings new flooding, Owens added.
The central business district on North Lumina Avenue sustained a foot or more of flooding for a few hours on Friday, House said, while the south end of Harbor Island saw flooding of 6 to 8 inches. Several streets, especially those on the east side of North Lumina Avenue, also had standing water, with Henderson, Greensboro and Salisbury streets still holding standing water. The waters of the channels across the island lifted docks and pushed several inches higher than normal. A boat moored in Banks Channel was partially submerged.
“There wasn’t any significant damage,” House said.
On Saturday morning, Wrightsville Beach publics works crews will return to the island to restore the town’s water and sewer system. Other officials will continue to tour the beach to assess damage.
At Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, waters raged against the pier and pushed up the beach strand, making it undrivable for police. There wasn’t significant damage to Crystal Pier either, Owens said.
Few people remained on the island on Friday, House said, as several left on Thursday after the storm winds picked up.
The $9.5 million beach renourishment project on Wrightsville Beach this past winter likely helped keep the storm surge from overtaking the dunes, Owens said.
“The beach renourishment project helped us out tremendously,” Owens said. “Along with the past renoursishments, we have a real healthy dune system.”


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