Jeremiah Drive: Under water again, for the 5th time

Posted 4/26/19

Jeremiah Drive is the sole access road to the homes of 26 residents in northeastern Chatham County, which has been dealing with severe flooding for several years.

Last week, the residential area …

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Jeremiah Drive: Under water again, for the 5th time

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Posted

Jeremiah Drive is the sole access road to the homes of 26 residents in northeastern Chatham County, which has been dealing with severe flooding for several years.

Last week, the residential area experienced its fifth flood since hurricane-based flooding occurred last September. Residents received an email from Steve Newton, Chatham County’s Director of Emergency Management, on April 14 warning of the potential for more flooding. He sent another on April 18 warning residents that the road will likely be flooded for several more days because of forecast weekend storms, leaving residents inhibited by flood waters.

Newton noted that “additional rain and downstream conditions along the Cape Fear have meant Jordan Lake levels are still high, eight days later.”

“The County has been notified by the US Army Corps of Engineers that with additional rain forecast tomorrow [April 19] Jordan Lake levels may reach or exceed 231 feet by Monday (4/22/2019),” the email read. “At 231 feet there will be 3.5 feet of water over the road, which will continue to prevent most vehicle access to your neighborhood.”

On Monday, Newton said the levels at Jordan Lake only elevated to a little over 229 feet. Though not as bad as expected, the levels were expected to still leave Jeremiah Drive under water for the next several days.

In a communication sent by Jeremiah Drive resident Faye Stanley, each of the previous floods averaged about two weeks in duration. This means that those residents have not been able to access their homes for 72 of the last 141 days, according to Stanley. She also noted that residents have been “cut off” from their homes for every holiday including last Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s,and Easter, thanks to the flooding.

The comforts of home and access to it are not the only things with which the residents struggle. When the road floods, the residents have limited access to services such as fire departments, police departments and mail delivery. Emergency access requires the use of the Chatham County Swift Water Rescue Squad, which ferries first responders in and then they and the patient out.

“We have residents out here who have serious illnesses — one with Parkinson’s disease, and one who requires daily home health care visits,” Stanley previously told the News + Record. “We are a largely older group of residents, and there are many who are unable to manage the boating and paddling required to get in and out, so they simply have to leave when the flooding happens.”

In January, residents were informed that the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, working in coordination with local elected officials, will be funding improvements to raise the road to help alleviate flooding during rain events. The expectation at the time was to have construction complete in July.

NCDOT Division Engineer Brandon Jones was the main point of contact of NCDOT for the residents. Even though he has since taken on a different position at NCDOT, Jones continues to provide updates to the residents about the construction progress.

“We are still on schedule and hoping for a mid to late May start date barring water levels and final sign off from the Corps,” Jones communicated via email to Stanley. “We have finalized wetland evaluations and dirt resources. I will follow up with you and the community regarding construction expectations as we approach beginning the project.”

Jones confirmed to the News + Record that the project is still on target to begin as scheduled, but he noted water levels at Jordan Lake will need to recede in order for the work to be performed. Additional flooding during the scheduled construction period to delay the completion of the road elevation, currently scheduled to be finished in July.

The flooding on Jeremiah Drive is a direct result of water levels on Jordan Lake. According to Newton, the road flooding had been an occasional occurrence in the past, perhaps happening every few years or so. But excessive rainfall over the past several months has made it a regular occurrence. Jones responded similarly in January when the announcement to elevate the road was made.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineering controls the elevation of Jordan Lake and they must consider many factors to determine when to release water,” Jones told the News + Record. “This past fall we have had record rainfalls over a very large area of the watersheds and downstream rivers. This has meant the road has been flooded for a much longer duration than in the past.”

Newton notes that while the Corps must “strike a balance” between flooding above the dam and potential flooding below the dam, the Corps “will aggressively attempt to reduce lake levels as soon as conditions allow.” In the meantime, Newton continues to connect with residents to keep them up to date with anticipated water levels to permit residents to make accommodations as best they can.

“Emergency Management continues to work closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers to keep residents informed of the current situation, while the county works with the Army Corps and the NC Department of Transportation to mitigate future flooding impact,” Newton said.

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