SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Transportation Division 3 is deploying resources to constantly monitor roadway conditions as Hurricane Dorian inches closer to the U.S. coastline.
Last year, flood conditions caused by Hurricane Florence caused a number of issues in the Cape Fear Region.
The City of Wilmington was isolated due to major flooding on I-40 near Warsaw, U.S. 17 near Jacksonville, and a complete roadway washout on U.S. 421 near the New Hanover County border. Brunswick County was divided into three isolated islands after flooded roadways cut off Town Creek and Lockwoods Folly River innundated Highway 17.
Major access points
Gerard Taylor, assistant division maintenance engineer for Division 3, said the department is closely monitoring predictive models based on information on Hurricane Dorian as it rolls in. Taylor said the region will see minor flooding, but not comparable to what Florence created.
“Where the rain falls is going to present its own problems,” Taylor said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “The system currently that they’re looking at and that they’re projecting is that there will not be a lot of headwater rainfall.”
This means that at the source of the Cape Fear River in the middle of the state, both river levels and predicted rainfall will not flood the southern region like last year. “You don’t have the sheer volume all coming down here,” he said.
As far as whether this means major entry and exit points will become cut off, Taylor said it’s hard to say: “Will that affect [I]40? Only the good Lord knows, truly. As far as right now, maybe, maybe not.”
Town Creek on U.S. 17 is being constantly monitored, according to Taylor. With two temporary bridges in place at U.S. 421 across Fishing Creek, Taylor said the roadways should handle any anticipated volumes of water.
Low-lying areas are always problematic. “Yes, it’s going to be problematic,” Taylor said. “However, with anticipated rainfall amounts and lower levels in the rivers, we’ll monitor them, but do we really see a problem with isolating a lot of different areas.”
Plan in place
North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has 1,000 barricades and 600 high water signs ready to be erected if needed, Taylor said Wednesday.
Division 3, which includes New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, Onslow, Duplin, and Sampson Counties, is comprised of approximately 6,500 to 7,000 miles of roadway. The entire roadway system, including guardrails, pipes, bridges, signs, pavement, structures and more, will be assessed as Dorian passes through the region.
“There always are plans in place and we review what could’ve should’ve happened, so to speak. A lot of those areas we’ve identified and what we’ve been able to do is implement some plans to help alleviate flooding,” he said.
With Florence, seven of the state’s 14 highway divisions contributed to roadway clearing efforts. Some crews even arrived by ferry, Taylor said. “It’s a rapid deployment,” he said. “Resources are there to make these assessments quickly.”
For those on the road, Taylor reiterated NCDOT safety tips: don’t travel through high water; turn around, don’t drown; be mindful of downed trees; don’t approach downed power lines.
Online monitoring system
The best way for travelers to stay up-to-date on roadway conditions is to check into NCDOT’s Traveler Information Management System (TIMS). This system is updated twice daily, at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.
NCDOT and State Highway Patrol officials constantly update TIMS — regardless of hurricane conditions — and should serve as a useful resource for evacuees looking for a safe way to return. Travelers can also call 511, Taylor said, which includes both automated and on-call communicators to help provide updates on roadway conditions.
Stay up to date on roadway conditions by checking NCDOT’s Traveler Information Management System.
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