I-Team: After Matthew, why so many roads remain closed

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The I-Team follows up with the status of the many roads that were washed out by flooding.

To tee up this story about lingering damage from Hurricane Matthew, it's worth remembering, it has been almost five weeks since the storm came crashing up the coast.

It hit North Carolina on Oct. 8, flooding areas from the coast to the Piedmont. By the time the water receded, 2,000 roads had been closed and 600 culverts under those roads had washed out.

Today, 206 roads are still closed. A spokesperson for Department of Transportation says he expects it to be "weeks and in some cases months" before they're all open again. There are a few reasons for the slow recovery.

For starters, whenever a culvert is damaged, state hydrologists need to weigh in on what happened and whether changes should be made when repairs are made.

The DOT has 25 hydrologists on staff and all 600 washouts need their sign-off before a plan is approved.

"For the sheer number we have not been able to get out and see all these," DOT hydrologist Jonathan Moore said. "They're ranging from Lumberton almost all the way up to Roanoke Rapids."

Moore and fellow DOT hydrologist Chris Lewis spent Monday in Coats, NC, inspecting two breaks off Harvell Road.

"If possible, if an existing structure is here, we want to get a look and see whether it was adequately sized. We can look at around the field, like the outlet end of this one," Lewis explained, pointing to a large flat area of land on the downstream side of the washed out road, "and see a blow hole. That's pretty indicative that the size of the pipe was undersized."

Lewis and Moore explained they also look to see how high the road is from the stream bed.

"There should be at least one to two feet of cover from the road to the top of the pipe," Lewis said, looking at another major washout on Harvell Road.

"Any other event, this culvert probably works fine, but in a 500-year event," he continued, "there's a 0.2 percent chance of a 500-year event happening in any given year. It doesn't make sense to design it for that."

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CLICK HERE FOR ROAD INFORMATION FOR THE SOUTHERN COASTAL AREA

Lewis said they try to match the needs with the fix.

"We design it for events that we see on a regular basis; 25- and 50-year events," he said.

The problem this year, with so many roads washed out and so many culverts needing to be replaced, Moore said, "We don't have that amount of pipe laying around so the manufacturers are having to make these pipes."

"This road is obviously of low importance," said Chris Cole, from Coats. "I haven't seen many workers or people from DOT down here actually doing things to it at all. The closer you live to one the more important it is to get it fixed so, hopefully they'll get it fixed soon."

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weatherhurricane matthewroad repairroad closurefloodingI-TeamNorth CarolinaCoats
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