CH/OC Visitors Bureau Accredited; CH Town Hall Reopening; SolarBees

Congratulations to the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, just awarded accreditation status from the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program.

The Orange County Visitors Bureau first received accreditation in 2010; it’s one of only 150 Convention and Visitors Bureaus in the U.S. to receive that honor.

It’s been more than a year since the big flood of 2013, and Town Hall is still undergoing renovations – but progress is being made, and on August 11 the Town of Chapel Hill is expecting to open some new offices.

Starting on Monday, August 11, the town’s Development Services Division and Revenue Office will be open on the ground floor of Town Hall, with the Business Management Department on the second floor. Cashiering will remain at University Square until August 8, then move back to Town Hall after that.

The renovations are being done in part to repair flood damage, but also to improve customer service. Council Chambers is scheduled to be reopen by September.

In order to reduce the level of algae in Jordan Lake, state officials are installing thirty-six solar-powered water circulators called SolarBees in the lake this month.

Installation began on July 21; it’s expected to take about two weeks. Twelve of the “SolarBees” will be placed in the southern part of the lake by the Haw River; the other 24 will be placed in the northern part of the lake by Morgan Creek.

Slow-Moving Storms Pose Biggest Threat To Stormwater System

Does your heart skip a beat during a downpour and make you wonder how long it will last? Last year’s flood may have heightened your senses to that.

With the potential for rain and thunderstorms through Friday, Chapel Hill stormwater management engineer Sue Burke says the only time the storm water system could be tested is if severe thunderstorms drop high amounts of rain in a short period of time.

“When we’ve had what we call high-intensity-short-duration storms, which means the rain is coming down at a really high rate over a very short period of time, the water then has trouble getting down into the storm drain system there’s just so much of it,” Burke says.

The Town saw 0.66 inches dropped on it Monday. It was spared the same storm Durham saw, which flooded some parts of the city after more than an inch of rain was reported at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Some area’s may have seen more due to the trend National Weather Service Meteorologist Nick Petro says would present the biggest problems.

“The main concern will be poor-drainage flooding as any of these heavy showers are going to move slowly,” Petro says. “There not a whole lot of wind in the atmosphere. So, these things, when they move, they’re going to move very slowly, and they’ll have the potential to dump a lot of rain over any given area.”

Thursday and Thursday night come with the greatest chances of rain and thunderstorms at this point—although the chance of precipitation tops out at 50 percent during the day. The National Weather Service is predicting less than a tenth of an inch of additional rainfall each day, unless a severe storm hits.

Last year, more than two and a half inches of rain fell in the four days leading up to June 30 when 5.12 inches fell in less than 20 hours. Some Chapel Hillians remember that as the worst flood in some 30 years.

Current Forecast

The Flood, One Year Later

One year ago Monday, Southern Orange County saw its worst flood in what some say was three decades. What have we learned in that time?

***Listen to the Story***


***Listen to a Live Report From June 30, 2013***

“We experienced an historic rainfall here in Chapel Hill,” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt told the public at a press conference three days after eight inches of rain fell on the town between June 28 and July 1 causing the worst flood in what some say was some 30-plus years. “Five to seven inches in a 24-hour period proved to be too much.”

The heaviest of the rain—5.06 inches—fell within 19 hours.
Chapel Hill’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Robert Bosworth said it was important for everyone to learn from the flood for future events.

“One of the things that we were taught is just how quickly that can happen,” Bosworth said. “Probably the biggest thing we’re doing to prepare is the recognition of how vulnerable we are and making sure that we have those lines of communication up between the different departments so that we can respond as quickly as possible.”

Today, Orange County Emergency Services Director Jim Groves says the county and towns used the event well as a learning experience.

“That area of Chapel Hill is prone to this type of event,” Groves says. “It’s definitely not the first time that the Camelot Village, Brookshire, and (places) like that have been flooded. So, what we’re trying to do is capture the best practices. I can tell you, one of the big outcomes of that is a better way of notifying these people when the waters start to rise to give them plenty of advanced notice that something bad’s getting ready to happen.”

On May 15 this year, Orange County almost found itself in the same situation again. However, the rains didn’t last as long, and the waters quickly receded. Before they did, there was standing water seen near Eastgate Shopping Center on Fordham Boulevard, some people shared pictures of Tom’s Creek at Ashbrook Apartments and Bolin Creek throughout Chapel Hill overflowing, and the Camelot Village Apartments, which were flooded in last year’s storms, were at the brink of evacuation just before the rains ceased.

@Terri_Turner1 - Tom's Creek at Ashbrook Apartments in Carrboro

@Terri_Turner1 – Tom’s Creek at Ashbrook Apartments in Carrboro

@PhilSusann - Eastgate flooding on Fordham

@PhilSusann – Eastgate flooding on Fordham

Last year, June 30 fell on a Sunday. That’s the day on which those 5.06 inches of rain fell on Orange County. Most people were going about their regular business: getting ready for a new week, spending time with family, or maybe just relaxing. But by 3:00 that afternoon, the heaviest of the rains began to fall.

Nearly 150 residences in three apartment and condominium complexes were damaged or destroyed, according to the Town of Chapel Hill.

A shelter was set up at Smith Middle School on the night of June 30 where more than 100 people stayed overnight. When the waters receded, the shelter was moved to University Mall. The Red Cross came in to provide assistance throughout the town.

Groves was only about six months on the job as the director of Orange County EMS when the event took place.

“We look at the need—and we call it unmet needs—but those folks who may not have friends, relatives, or loved ones that they can stay with and their homes destroyed, we need to find a way of taking care of them, providing care for them,” Groves says. “Many times a shelter is the way to go to give them immediate access to go ahead and get out of the elements, making sure they’re taken care of nutritionally and with clothes.”

Despite the many people who were affected, some, like John Edwards—no, not that John Edwards—say they didn’t know the situation was so severe.

“I was completely unaware that a majority of Chapel Hill was flooding the entire time, because I was up towards higher ground, I guess, where I was living,” Edwards says.

But many had a different experience.

“The people were very distraught, having to move,” Northern Chatham County resident Margie Calhoun says. “Everything was wet, cars all messed up, clothing, linens, bed.”

“We had a huge rainstorm from, I think, Saturday night into that Sunday morning, and then we had a kind of a calm-down period during the day, and then we had a huge surge again for about 30 or 45 minutes that afternoon,” Chapel Hill resident Jay Patel says. “I think it was something like 2:00 or 3:00, and within the span of 45 minutes, we just had a huge downpour.”

Some Carrboro residents spoke up with their concerns that the flooding will persist unless the town makes some major changes to its infrastructure.

On South Greensboro Street, Carrboro officials condemned about two dozen homes at the Rocky Brook Mobile Home Park as a result of the rainstorm.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle says immediately town officials began studying the flood-prone areas.

“We asked staff over the course of the last year to start investigating whether the increased flooding that we were seeing was the result of new development or perhaps infrastructure, or something that the Town can work to try to address,” Mayor Lavelle says.

She says steps have already been taken to try to ensure the flooding doesn’t happen again.

“We received a report from George Seiz, our director of public works, and it gave us a status report about some studying that had been going on in the last year for these different areas of town,” Mayor Lavelle says. (He submitted a) recommendation that we include and we did budget $20,000 in our upcoming budget to be able to further evaluate engineering costs to decide whether we need some more intensive repair work or study done on several areas of town that seem suddenly more prone to flooding.”

Chapel Hill also raised its Stormwater fees by 75 cents in its fiscal year 2014-15 budget, which takes effect Tuesday. The budget report by Town Manager Roger Stancil says the money will go toward the need for storm water quality and infrastructure projects.

The first floor of Chapel Hill’s Town Hall flooded following the torrential rains soaking carpets, furniture, drywall and the council dias.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue says, despite the terrible loss and the cost it is taking to repair the building, it has allowed the Town to review how Town Hall is being used.

“We had some impacts at our Town Hall that we’re clearly still working to address, but that’s given us an opportunity to think differently about that facility and to come away with some efficiencies there,” Chief Blue says. “That’s probably a good outcome that came out of that really tough situation.”

The town also had to repair 18 apartments at Airport Gardens, a public housing neighborhood off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The first floor of Town Hall remains closed while repairs and reconstruction are underway. Some offices have been relocated to University Square and University Mall.

Town officials said it may be up to a year before the Town Hall is ready to fully reopen, and repairs could cost as much as $400,000.

The council voted 7-1 November 25 to allocate an additional $860,000 to renovate two-thirds of Town Hall.

Flash Flood Watch

Less than one year ago, heavy rains flooded Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Are we in for another round this week?

National Weather Service senior forecaster Scott Sharp says the possibility for flooding is certainly out there.

“The showers and storms today will just prime the pump for additional showers and thunderstorm activity we’re expecting later (Tuesday) and more so during the day on Wednesday and Wednesday night,” Sharp says. “We’re looking at rainfall totals during the course of the day today and early this evening probably anywhere from a quarter to maybe a half an inch across the Triangle. The highest potential for heavy rainfall will be late (Tuesday) through Wednesday into Wednesday evening as we pick up an additional inch to maybe two inches of rainfall during that time period.”

***Listen to the Interview***

More than seven inches of rain fell on Chapel Hill-Carrboro on and around June 30. Bolin Creek overflowed flooding East Gate shopping center, Camelot Village apartments, Chapel Hill Town Hall, Granville Towers and many other places.

A flash flood watch is in effect from Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. until Thursday at 6:00 a.m.

“We are expecting the weather conditions to start to improve by Thursday–maybe after lunchtime or so,” Sharp says. “It looks like right now Friday into Saturday it looks like we should see much better, more tranquil weather conditions during that time.”

Remember: a watch means flooding is possible; a warning means flooding is happening or imminent.

Flood Insurance Study; OWASA Blood Drive; Non-Profit Funding

CHAPEL HILL – A new Orange County Flood Insurance Study will be held in meeting room A at the Chapel Hill Public Library from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on December 18.

Residents and businesses are invited to review the flood hazard and flood risk data.  Beginning at 4:00 p.m., data will be presented on computers and layered over the County’s parcel.  At 5:00 p.m. a brief presentation will be given by the NC Floodplain Risk Mapping Program and from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. the public may ask questions.

For more information click here.


On December 27, OWASA will hold an American Red Cross Blood Drive from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00p.m. and needs your support.

The blood drive will be in the community room on the lower floor of OWASA’s AdministrationBuilding.  People who come out to donate will receive a free Red Cross long sleeve shirt.

Appointments are recommended to move through quickly, but walk-ins are welcome after noon.


The Human Services Advisory Board is accepting applications from outside agencies and non-profits for funding during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Forms are available online for non-profits human service agencies serving Chapel Hill.  All applications should be electronically submitted or delivered to Chapel Hill Human Services Coordinator Jackie Thompson by 5:00 p.m. January 24.

For more information call Jackie Thomson at 919-968-2760.

Local Businesses Rebuild After Flooding

CHAPEL HILL – More than a month after flooding hit our local area, some businesses are still working to make repairs and get back their original state.

Kristen Smith, vice president for advocacy and engagement at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, says that in the wake of the flood, local businesses worked to support one another.

“Businesses really stepped up, as far as helping their fellow business folks,” Smith says. “People like Peter DeLeon at the University Mall opened up space so that there could be an assistance center for businesses or individuals. Different businesses made cash contributions and in-kind contributions to be a part of the relief effort.”

Smith says that even businesses who may not have had a lot of resources managed to contribute something.

“Businesses stepped up with contributions of space, boxes, storage pods,” Smith says.

Since the June flood, Smith says the Chamber of Commerce has been going to different businesses in the area to try and provide the services needed.

“We’ve been trying to monitor the needs of businesses, particularly since Governor McCrory declared a state of emergency in our county and that makes businesses eligible for loan funding and other grants,” Smith says.

Smith is referring to the low-interest rate loans provided by the Small Business Administration during the state of emergency.

“Some businesses are just discovering damage, and so we want to make sure that even though the assistance center at University Mall is closed, people can still apply for assistance,” Smith says.

The SBA can be reached at 1.800.659.2955.

Chapel Hill Flood Recovery Still Underway

Estes @ University Mall

CHAPEL HILL – In the aftermath of the damage caused by the torrential rain and floods in the past two months, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says your town still has a lot of work to do.

“We have several weeks, if not months, for full recovery.  In fact, there are some things that are going to take even longer.  We have folks who are still struggling with damage to their homes—people who are displaced and may be displaced for quite a long time, as some of the places they’ve been displaced from get repaired and renovated,” Kleinschmidt says.

For those residents who have been forced out of their homes, especially in affordable housing units like Camelot Village, Mayor Kleinschmidt says many are simply taking refuge with friends and family or temporarily vacant homes.

“In our public housing area along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at Airport Gardens, we’re still doing work there to replace dry wall and to help people get settled back in, but it’s not ready for normal living yet, that’s for sure,” Kleinschmidt explains.

Among active efforts to ensure as speedy and effective a recovery as possible, the Mayor has also extended the waiver portion of the Town’s emergency proclamation an extra 30 days, which was originally supposed to expire this Thursday.

Mayor Kleinschmidt says he issued the extension to ensure that those who still need assistance with debris removal and other damage repairs can do so without the generally required fees.

The proclamation expires September 5, unless another proclamation withdraws it or modifies it.

Above all, Mayor Kleinschmidt says he wants you to know that this is a community effort and there are things you can do to help those in need.

“I wanted to make sure that we were as helpful as we can be to folks who are working hard to get their lives back to normal.  We’ll still keep those fees waived and assist people as best we can,” he says.

The proclamation will expire September 5, unless another proclamation withdraws it or modifies it.

Above all, mayor Kleinschmidt wants you to know that this is a community effort and there are things you can do to help those in need.

“I’d like folks to know that there are still people out there that need the assistance in their community.  There are things that the Town government can do, there are things that churches and neighborhoods are doing to help each other, but there’s still a role for people out there who are concerned about the health and welfare of families who have been displaced,” he says.

He encourages you to help others if you can by contacting Orange County Human Services.

Congressman Price Tours Flooded Chapel Hill

Congressman David Price joined by Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt (L) Town Manager Roger Stancil (CR) and Emergency Management Coordinator Robert Bosworth (R).

CHAPEL HILL – U.S. Congressman David Price toured flood-damaged properties to show his support of Chapel Hill on Monday.

Congressman Price was joined by Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Town Manager Roger Stancil, and Emergency Management Coordinator Robert Bosworth.

Congressman Price is a Chapel Hill resident and serves the oddly-shaped 4th Congressional District which covers Chapel Hill, Pittsboro, Raleigh, Burlington, and portions of Durham, Cary, and Fayetteville, among others.

Officials Push For Loans In Flood Review

CHAPEL HILL – With the Small Business Administration and other state and county agencies conducting their review of flood damage in the area, local officials are offering updates on the community after the flood.

Emergency management coordinator for Orange County, Darshan Patal, says the majority of the flood damage appears to have affected Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and the efforts of emergency workers are beginning to transition.

“This has really now transitioned to a recovery effort where DFF, housing and a couple of other county agencies are working to make sure short-term and long-term housing options are taken care of,” Patal says.

Chapel Hill town manager, Roger Stancil, says the flood damage to Town Hall will take about four months to fix.

“We’ve got to totally start over again,” Stancil says. “We need to think about the space and we need to move some of our technology to a different location and then redo the space.”

In its review, the SBA pushed for a disaster declaration for Orange County. According to Patal, that declaration would allow residents and small business owners to receive low-interest loans to help rebuild.

“The governor has since signed that declaration and sent it to the SBA for final approval,” Patel says. “As soon as we get the final approval, we will get the SBA into our assistance center at University Mall to allow individuals to come in, consult with them, do applications and everything they need to do to get the assistance they need from the SBA.”

While Stancil says there is no estimate for how much the clean-up to the town will cost, he says there are a few ways that Chapel Hill can find enough money in its budget to pay for the clean-up.

“One of the reasons that the town has a fund balance is it’s our savings account for natural disasters,” Stancil says. “That’s why we keep it at a healthy level so we can recover from such disasters.”

Stancil says that Chapel Hill is keeping records of the damages in the event that it can get reimbursements from state or federal agencies. He says this also extends to the potential lack of money the town is getting since waving fees for certain types of clean-up and construction on property.

“Depending again on the level of declarations from the state and federal government, there may be some potential for getting those fee waivers reimbursed to the town,” Stancil says.

An estimated 141 residents were displaced by the June 30 flood, and Orange County and municipal officials continue to monitor river levels as more rains and storms are expected.

Chapel Hill Still Cleaning Up From (First) Flood

Photo by Ernie Rogers (CHTC parking lot).

CHAPEL HILL – Town Manager Roger Stancil is asking town staff to move swiftly in the review process and waive fees for permits related to flood reconstruction.

“The assessment, clean up, and disposal will all take time, so patience is needed,” Stancil said in a release.

The Town is also waiving fees associated to some waste collection. Household bulky waste pickup is free to residents with flood damage. Residents with flood debris are asked to call Public Works at 919-969-5100 to arrange a special collection or to inquire as to whether or not your items can be picked up. Crews will not pick up construction or demolition wastes.

The conclusion of Tuesday’s joint assessment of the most affected areas of OrangeCounty to determine whether it will receive disaster loan assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA) has not been announced. Representatives from the SBA, North Carolina Emergency Management, and Orange County Emergency Services conducted the review. The USSBA Disaster Loan Declaration is requested if enough uninsured or underinsured loss to homes and or businesses occurred, which will offer low-interest loans to qualified applicants.

Some areas of the town are still recovering from flood damage. The first floor of Town Hall is being cleaned after several inches of water damaged the facility’s lower level. Taxes and other bills are being collected on the second floor. Business Management and Information Technology staff members have also been relocated.

A portion of Meadowbook Drive is still closed after an assessment of the road deemed it unsafe for vehicles. Repairs are currently underway.

Other Affected Areas

  • Town Hall at 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. – The first floor of the building was flooded with several inches of water. The clean-up and repair is underway. Residents may pay taxes and other bills on the second floor of Town Hall at the Revenue Collector. Business Management and Information Technology staff members have been relocated.
  • Airport Gardens public housing neighborhood on South Roberson Street: Clean-up and repair of 18 apartments is underway.
  • Umstead Park: Rather than restore the existing playground, crews will install a new play structure in the park away from the creek. Work on Umstead Park is scheduled to begin this week with removal of the existing structure and barrier fencing.
  • Greenways: The Bolin Creek Greenway was heavily impacted by the flooding. The Morgan Creek and Booker Creek greenways received some minor impacts, but these have been addressed. The Bolin Creek Greenway remains open, but greenway users need to be aware that while temporary measures have been implemented to maintain the trail surface, additional construction will be occurring over the next six months to repair damage. This work will necessitate the closing of sections of the trail. Crews will also be working in close proximity to the trail to clean up storm debris and remove damaged trees which may cause short term closing of trail areas.
  • Sykes Street Playground: The Sykes Playground is closed until a new retaining wall can be installed and the playground fall surface replaced. Chapel Hill Housing Department is responsible for this playground with assistance from the Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Meadowbrook Drive: Closed, pending repair.
  • Swimming Pools: None of the Town’s swimming pools were affected by the flooding. While we did receive the torrential rain at AD Clarke Pool, the pool filtration equipment is engineered to handle the overflow and keep the pool water within acceptable sanitary standards.