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Record-High Cape Fear River Floods Fayetteville, North Carolina, After Hurricane Florence

Rural Areas Suffer Extensive Damage, Official Says
September 19, 2018
The Cape Fear River crested at a record high in Fayetteville, North Carolina, causing flooding in the area. Credit: CoStar Group Inc.

The Cape Fear River, the largest waterway in Fayetteville, North Carolina, crested at an historic high, causing major flooding through sections of the city and posing its biggest risk to property in the days after Hurricane Florence.

The Eastside Green Apartments, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden and the Fayetteville Police Department Training Center were among the areas where flooding surged through property after the river crested at a record 61.58 feet.

Fayetteville, the state's sixth-largest city, is 90 miles west of where Hurricane Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm on Sept. 14, in Wilmington, North Carolina. Floodwaters in the landfall area devastated seaside Wilmington, prompting officials to close all roads east of Fayetteville and Cumberland County.

The flooding in Fayetteville is particularly significant for the U.S. commercial real estate industry because it provides a look at the type of damage that can occur from a hurricane that slows down over land, resulting in far more destruction from flooding days after landfall than from wind as it strikes.

 Read More CoStar Coverage of Hurricane Florence 

While Fayetteville flooded, officials in Wilmington, 90 miles east, extended its curfew by two hours on Wednesday. While the city where Hurricane Florence made landfall has been under a curfew since the storm hit, Wilmington officials told residents to stay indoors from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice. Officials are reporting about 46,000 power outages, down from 114,000 at the height of the hurricane, said Jessica Loeper, a spokeswoman for New Hanover County.

Officials have cleared a few small roads into Wilmington, but they’re reserved for emergency vehicles and storm personnel. Crews are still assessing damage and may not know for a few more days when full access to Wilmington can be restored, Loeper said.

There are three distribution sites in Wilmington providing residents with water and meals ready to eat.

“We’re really in the recovery phase now,” Loeper said. “We’ve had an overwhelming feeling of support. People really do want to be there for their neighbor, and that’s really powerful to see."

Gene Booth, Cumberland’s emergency management coordinator, told CoStar News that “we’re very fortunate and blessed” that most of Fayetteville, a city of 200,000 people, was spared catastrophic damage that occurred in Wilmington and in the rural areas outside Fayetteville.

While most of the downtown buildings were spared in Fayetteville, flooding from the Little River destroyed homes and businesses in the northwestern part of Cumberland County, according to Booth.

“It’s going to be quite a while for recovery in that area,” he said.

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, officials had rescued 134 people from floodwaters across Fayetteville and Cumberland. A body was reported in the Cedar Creek community off Tabor Church Road in Fayetteville. A sheriff's spokesman said the water was still too high in the area late Wednesday for rescue workers to get there.

Officials closed the Person Street Bridge over the Cape Fear River. Also closed were sections of Interstate 95 from exits 13 to 81 and at the Highway 59 - Parkton Road intersection near the town of Hope Mills.

“We were concerned about people’s well-being," said Nathan Walls, a spokesman for the city of Fayetteville. "Hurricane Matthew [in 2016] was a very high level for the Cape Fear River, and this was higher than that.”

Paul Owers, in Fayetteville, North Carolina  CoStar Group   
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