The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday June 2nd

Chapel Hill mops up after flash flood

On Monday morning, fans, squeegees and mops were out in full force on Franklin Street. But by afternoon, most of them, and the water they had sought to dispel, were gone.

But while some downtown businesses rebounded quickly from the deluge, Chapel Hill and Orange County officials warned residents to stay vigilant as storms remain in the forecast.


Orange County is providing tips for homeowners affected by the flood from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Wear rubber boots, gloves and goggles during cleanup
• Remove drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with flood water or sewage
• Help the drying process with fans, air conditioners and dehumidifiers
• Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces with hot water and laundry or dish detergent

Orange County Emergency Medical Services Director Jim Groves confirmed the county was in a state of emergency after the flooding, allowing local governments to seek federal disaster funding if it becomes available.

As of Wednesday, officials estimated about 130 flood-affected residences in Chapel Hill had been condemned, but that number could rise as more single-family homes are evaluated. Some of the hardest-hit residential areas were Camelot Village Condominiums and Brookwood Townhomes, both on Estes Drive.

At the storm’s peak, 41 people from some of those residences had been housed in a temporary shelter at Smith Middle School. By Tuesday night, that number had dropped to 19.

In the 300 block of West Franklin Street, one of the lowest areas in downtown, substantial flooding damaged pavement, cars and some business merchandise and fixtures. But few business owners said they expected the cost of repairs to break the bank.

Joey Lindsey, a Chapel Hill Comics employee, said though the store had a couple of inches of water throughout it, no merchandise or fixtures were lost.

“We didn’t really have any damage, which is amazing because water and comics don’t mix,” he said.

Among those businesses that did need repairs, employees expected most of their costs to come from replacing sections of the floors and ceilings. Employees at stores such as The Bookshop, Nail Trix and Somethin’ Else all said they would need to make such repairs.

A critical part of post-flood recovery for restaurants was inspection by the Orange County Health Department.

On Monday, the department visited 53 restaurants in Chapel Hill — 17 on West Franklin Street alone.

“(We) provided them with a guideline for cleaning, salvaging and renovating after a flood,” said Connie Pixley, an environmental health supervisor with the county.

By late Monday, Pixley said most of the restaurants they had visited were open again, and none of them needed to have their permits taken or re-evaluated.

Town government worked with the county on recovery efforts throughout Chapel Hill.

Lisa Edwards, a spokeswoman with the Chapel Hill Fire Department, said the town had established disaster assessment teams to evaluate the situation.

In terms of damage to residential areas, Edwards said two of the hardest-hit locations were Camelot Village Condominiums and Brookwood Townhomes, both on Estes Drive.

As of Monday, she said some residents of those complexes were still displaced, and inspections crews would need to examine the buildings for problems.

Though Sunday’s flooding overwhelmed stormwater systems throughout Chapel Hill, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said the town is not likely to discuss updating those systems soon.

“It’s really too early to say with any specificity what actions would need to be taken,” Kleinschmidt said.

“I do think it’s important to recognize the context. Sunday was the heaviest precipitation that we’ve ever experienced in a 24-hour period.”

He said the cost of a stormwater overhaul can be even heavier than the costs incurred in a flood.

“In order to retrofit those systems, it causes a disruption,” he said. “You have to balance not just the cost of infrastructure, but the cost of the disruption.”

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