Thursday, December 1, 2022

On Saturday, flooding will hit downtown Wilmington, northern Brunswick County

Though there has been limited warning, officials acknowledge flooding of nearly two blocks of downtown Wilmington could begin Saturday. The tidal flooding, fed by upstream floodwaters, could flood Water Street through Tuesday over multiple tide cycles.

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — As people settle back into their routines, floodwaters are projected to continue rising in the Cape Fear region.

About ten blocks of Water Street in Downtown Wilmington, between Red Cross and Nun streets, as well as the area around the Wilmington Convention Center, could be covered by three feet of floodwater on Sunday — water that could stick around through the week. Flooding is not expected to reach the higher elevation of Front Street, with the possible exception of the low-lying intersection of Dock and Front streets.

RELATED: After Florence, the flood: Brunswick Sheriff’s deputies race to warn residents ahead of ‘biblical’ flooding

The National Weather Service (NWS) is projecting downtown Wilmington and surrounding areas could flood as the tide ebbs and flows, beginning Saturday and expected to recede by Tuesday.

“As water from upstream floods moves through Wilmington, levels will increase over the weekend with peak tidal flooding expected Sunday through Tuesday, with each high tide,” the NWS’ 1 p.m. Friday river forecast states. “Based on history, levels during high tides this weekend into early next week could reach eight feet.”

At the Cape Fear River’s highest projected peak at eight feet which could happen between Saturday and Sunday during high tide, NWS is predicting the following could happen:

  • US 421 northbound near the Battleship could become impassable.
  • Roads in and near the state port could be affected.
  • Low spots on River Road and Highway 133 may be affected or become impassable

Northern Brunswick

Upriver from Wilmington, northern Brunswick County appears to be in the path of flooding that could push two dams close to the brim. Operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, it’s unclear whether any of the dams have indeed breached as a result of flooding because no staff members are there to confirm.

“All of the facilities at all three locks and dams on the Cape Fear River are currently closed for Hurricane Florence,” the Army Corps of Engineer’s voice message at Lock and Dam 1 states.

Kelly, North Carolina, a community north of Wilmington and Leland is under civil emergency, issued by the NWS Thursday evening, and again, Friday afternoon. The warning was issued based on NWS readings at Lock and Dam 1, expected to crest Saturday.

Bladen County Emergency Services (BCES) is warning residents on Facebook about historic flood levels. Yesterday, BCES told residents it might be the last opportunity to safely evacuate as roads become impassable. Friday, residents were warned cell and land service might go out and that Cape Fear River water levels are continuing to rise.

Lock and Dam 1 is already nearly a foot higher than its previous record, recorded in 1945, and is expected to rise by at least an additional six inches before cresting. This dam is expected to crest Saturday.

Upstream from Lock and Dam 1 is Lock and Dam 2, in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. This dam is cresting Friday, at less than a foot below its 1945 record, and six feet higher than Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Readings at this dam resulted in a civil emergency warning as well.

Time to prepare

With relatively little time to prepare ahead of projected flooding, Wilmington staff members handed out flyers to businesses on Water Street. Though the information has not yet been posted online or provided in a release, it was also emailed to downtown stakeholders, Wilmington spokesperson Dylan Lee wrote in an email.

“We are monitoring the situation and will be watching the next several high tide cycles,” Lee said.

The Wilmington flooding alert flyer refers to NWS predictions as “the worst case scenarios.”

Niel Brooks, assistant town manager for the town of Leland, said the town had not received any warnings from Brunswick County Emergency Operations Center, in regards to upstream flooding.

Brunswick County’s emergency services director, Scott Garner, said on Friday evening that areas of northern Brunswick County could soon see innundation as a result of upstream flooding, after speaking with the NWS.

“We still have swift water rescue crews and high clearance vehicles here and will actively observe the conditions and respond as needed,” Garner wrote in an email.

Update Friday 7:50 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a quote provided by Scott Garner.

Check out Wilmington’s flood alert flyer, passed out to Water Street businesses Thursday:

Flooding Alert Flyer for Businesses by Johanna Ferebee on Scribd

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at

Related Articles