By 2050, more severe flooding expected in North Carolina

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023
North Carolina expected to see more severe flooding by 2050
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More and more of North Carolina is at risk for severe flooding. Towns and cities are using lessons learned from previous natural disasters.

WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- As we enter hurricane season, more and more of North Carolina is at risk for severe flooding. And by the year 2050, that risk is only going to get worse.

Nearly a month ago, Idalia passed through North Carolina. The hardest hit area was not on the coast, but a little further inland - the town of Whiteville in Columbus County.

Today, they have recovered, but business owners say the constant rebuilding gets tiring. "It's heartbreaking when everything you own is underwater and you're throwing it away," says Joyce Mauldin.

Mauldin and her husband grew up in Whiteville and have had their accounting business downtown for decades. In that time, they've had to rebuild 13 times, the worst during Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.

When Idalia hit downtown Whiteville, 40 businesses flooded with water maxing out at 20 inches in some places.

It's something that Whiteville Emergency Manager Hal Lowder has been keeping a close eye on. They've used drones to track flood patterns and done detailed mapping of the floodplain.

Lowder says they're still playing catch-up from poor engineering from decades prior, but it all comes down to resources.

"We have done a lot of FEMA grants brick grants and it sounds like we're just begging but it comes down to finances, I can fix any flood issue in the world with enough money," Lowder says.

Moving forward, they're making sure new construction is only in approved areas, and in the flood plain, there are height requirements, and new builds would have to be on stilts.

Across North Carolina, data shows just how prevalent flooding will become. While coastal counties still have the highest risk, when you factor in counties with at least a 10 percent risk of a major flooding event, it covers a lot of the state including inland areas.

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And the vast majority, over 90 percent do not have flood insurance.

In Fayetteville, they're also looking at long-term planning to mitigate those risks, including adding more green space.

"It's really the most common occurrence. We don't have say a tornado every day, we don't have a hurricane every day, but when it rains we know flash flooding is prominent and prevalent," says Garry Crumpler, the Cumberland County Emergency Management Coordinator.

Back in Whiteville, holding out hope, and looking towards to the future. One idea being floated long-term if they can successfully divert water, they could make Whiteville an eco-tourism destination on the way to the beach, with kayaking as an option.

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