Tides to force waves of floodwater into Wilmington

September 25, 2018

Water Street in downtown Wilmington was already underwater even before the Cape Fear River crests on Sept. 24, 2018, following Hurricane Florence.

The Cape Fear River could crest near record levels in Wilmington during each high tide over the next couple of days, officials said Monday.

Water Street in downtown Wilmington was flooded during Hurricane Florence a week ago, but the water receded as the storm moved inland. As the rain Florence dumped into the Cape Fear River basin works its way back down to the ocean, Wilmington officials and business owners are preparing for more downtown flooding.

High tides through Wednesday could put the river at record levels of close to 8 feet, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. Flooding occurs at about 5.5 feet.

“We’ll have about 2 to 3 feet of water in the downtown area,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. “There are several businesses that could be affected by it. They are trying to take precautions of sandbagging and getting ready for this.”

City and county leaders say they have warned people in Wilmington and in the northern part of New Hanover County for days that the water would be coming back.

“We certainly remain concerned,” County Manager Chris Coudriet said. “All the water inland is continuing to make its way down towards the coast, but we’re primarily focused on what could happen in terms of rising water in Castle Hayne along the Northeast Cape Fear River. So, that’s where we’re putting most of our attention.”

“The street is underwater again,” said Jeff Clemons, who owns Fuzz Love, a clothing and accessories store on Water Street. “When I got here [Sunday], we couldn’t get in. [The water] was up about a foot on the door.”

Wilmington has largely been cut off for the past week because of floodwaters, but Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday that Interstate 40 has been reopened all the way to the coast. U.S. Highway 74 also has been reopened from Charlotte to Wilmington, he said.

“Getting those critical arteries open again is key to our recovery,” Cooper said at a news conference.

U.S. Highway 421 at the New Hanover-Pender county line remains closed, however, with Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon calling the damage to the road the most significant in the state.

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