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Wrightsville Beach
Saturday, January 28, 2023

Rain floods roads, makes yards soggy but does little major damage

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It rained. And rained. And rained. When it was over, a weather system that fed off moisture from Hurricane Joaquin had dumped 12 to more than 15 inches of rain across New Hanover County, flooding roads and causing damage in some places.

“It felt like a hurricane but it wasn’t,” said Sandy LaCorte, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington.

The official total at the airport was 13.99 inches, but Kure Beach recorded 15.38 inches, and the Bayshore area got 14.99 inches, LaCorte said. The rainfall was enough to break records on a couple of days over the weekend, and Wilmington officially passed the average rainfall for the year, she said.

Street flooding was the main problem throughout Wilmington and the unincorporated area. After the rains ended, county officials were out surveying the damage Tuesday.

Carolina Beach and Kure Beach had extensive street flooding. Carolina Beach Lake overflowed, and that town’s north end had high water. Higher-than-normal tides following the full moon contributed to the flooding.

High water covered some streets and parking areas at Wrightsville Beach during the worst of the storm, but town manager Tim Owens said the primary concern was the water that was flowing into the sewer system, as pumps were put on lift Stations 3 and 5 to help bypass some of the flooded parts of the line. Monday, several manholes overflowed because of the rush of water all weekend.

“The most critical thing that happened during the storm is that it’s taxing our sewer system,” Owens said. The manholes still overflowing Monday were at Sweeney Avenue and Channel Street and at South Lumina Avenue and Taylor Street.

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority dealt with similar overflows. About 1,000 gallons of diluted wastewater, which contained some raw sewage, spilled over Monday along the Burnt Mill Creek line.

Because the spills involved mostly rainwater, however, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality does not require the utility authority to take water samples, utility spokesman Mike McGill said.

The affected areas were the 1300 block of Market Street, the 1400 block of Dock, the 2100 block of both Chestnut Street and Princess Place Drive, the 400 block North 21st Street, and the intersection of Park View and College Road.

Lifeguard stand No. 13’s top toppled Sunday after high tides and rough seas pounded Wrightsville Beach’s south end. Its base sits about 100 yards further south. The stand, located near Public Beach Access No. 40, at Albright Street came down from the high tide at about noon on Sunday, Owens said. It was the second lifeguard stand to come down, as stand No. 1 at the north end was taken down by high tides on Monday, Sept. 28, following the high tides brought on by the full moon.

However, the loss of the stands doesn’t pose much of an issue for the town, as the summer beach season has ended and the town already budgeted for six new stands for next season. Owens said it was that reason the town elected to try to keep the stands on the beach rather than move them.

“It was never a big problem to begin with,” Owens said. “We made the decision to keep them on the beach. We thought they would hold up. Sometimes you can damage them just trying to move them.”

Kure Beach officials said in a news release Tuesday the town fared relatively well. While some residents reported water damage, the town’s stormwater drainage system handled the large volume of water and roads were passable for the most part, the release said.

New Hanover County officials, meanwhile, were keeping track of the storm’s impact from the Emergency Operations Center.

The Figure Eight Island homeowners association reported three houses were “in imminent danger,” county emergency management director Warren Lee said. There were other reports of water infiltrating some homes, but from initial observations most of the flooding appears to have affected traffic more than property, he said.

Two homeless people stayed overnight Sunday in the shelter opened at Trask Middle School but left the next day, Lee said, and officials closed that shelter Monday afternoon. The Red Cross opened one at Winter Park Baptist Church in case flooding displaced anyone.

Spotty power outages occurred throughout the four-day storm, but a Duke Energy spokesperson said in most cases electricity was restored in a timely manner.

Brunswick County was not as fortunate as New Hanover. Aerial videos from Ocean Isle Beach and Brunswick Plantation near the South Carolina line showed severe flooding. Schools and government offices there closed for a second day Tuesday because some roads also were impassible.

The storm led to a number of business and government closures. New Hanover County schools, Cape Fear Community College and the University of North Carolina Wilmington were closed Monday, as were general government offices in the county, the city, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach — although employees considered essential reported for duty. The schools operated on a two-hour delay Tuesday.

News director Terry Lane contributed to this report.

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