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Saturday, May 18, 2024

NCDOT has opened more than 1,300 previously closed roads after Florence, less than 300 remain closed

Highway 421 at the Pender/New Hanover border on Friday morning. (Port City Daily photo | Courtesy Dan George)
Highway 421 at the Pender/New Hanover border after flooding in the wake of Hurricane Florence. The highway is still closed, but many others have opened. Photo by John Justice of Currie, North Carolina. (Port City Daily photo | Courtesy John Justice)

SOUTHEAST N.C. — Hurricane Florence might be history, but its impacts live on in the Coastal Carolinas, especially in terms of roads closed due to damages and flooding from the storm. At its peak, the North Carolina Department of Transportation closed more than 1,600 roads across the state.

“The state now has less than 300 closed sections of roadway, down from more than 1,600 during the peak of the storm. More than 2,600 DOT employees are working on recovery efforts, including 250 crew members who have left less impacted areas of the state to help their coworkers in the hardest hit areas. They’ve been joined by 160 contractors helping with cleanup and recovery,” according to an NCDOT press release.

It might not seem like water alone can cause so much damage to roadways, but there are several different impacts floodwaters have on the road systems.

“Generally, flooding can cause a washout of road, or a culvert blowout that also damages the road surface, or, in some locations, there is an erosion of the shoulder and side of a road, or even a washout of the material under the road. One of the reasons we repeatedly remind people not to go around barriers. Just because the road surface looks fine, doesn’t mean it is safe until our inspectors make sure it is,” NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott said.

Now that the waters are receding, NCDOT crews are able to check the status of roads and asses the damages done by Florence: many roads were left without damage while others were devastated.

“In many cases, once the water receded and it was checked, there was no damage that caused a safety issue, or minor damage that we had crews ready to repair ASAP. Which is why those roads could be opened so quickly after the inspection. If there is damage, the determination is made whether it is something our crews can handle, in which case, work begins as soon as possible.” Abbott said. “We have brought in crews from other parts of the state to help. For more severe damage, a contractor will need to do the work, and we are in the process of hiring companies and scheduling that work.”
Despite the storm making landfall two weeks ago, water levels are still posing a problem for the NCDOT along with rushing waters.
“In the cases of bridge overwash, they also need to be inspected, and in some cases we have to wait not only for the water to go down but the current to slow down so it’s safe for inspectors. We still have sections of 10 primary routes (US and NC routes) in Division 3 (New Hanover and other southeast counties) closed because water is still on them or there is damage. You can check to see which roads by county. Same with the 42 secondary roads that still have sections closed,” Abbott said.

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