Council Considers Revamp For Flood-Damaged Town Hall

CHAPEL HILL- Flooding on June 30 caused major damage to the first floor of Chapel Hill Town Hall, and repairs could keep much of the building closed until next summer.

But Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Town Manager Roger Stancil are encouraging the council to consider this as an opportunity instead of a crisis, asking them to rethink the layout of town offices, with an eye to expediting the permitting and review process.

The price to rebuild the flooded business offices and council chamber would be approximately $249,000, but Kleinschmidt says that for just $430,000 more, the town could create a user-friendly permitting center on the ground floor that would make it easier for developers and homeowners to get projects reviewed by town staffers.

The council has a long-term plan for $4.2 million dollars worth of renovations to Town Hall, but officials say that plan is unfunded and not high on the town’s list of priorities.

However, Business Management Director Ken Pennoyer says spending an extra $430,000 now could indefinitely delay the need for large-scale renovation. He says the money could come from the town’s fund balance or bonds issued next July.

Some on the council say they want more information before committing the extra money, especially as the remodeling plan does not currently include the cost of stormwater infrastructure improvements to make sure the flooding doesn’t happen again.

The council is waiting on a report from Public Works detailing the causes of the flooding before making any final decisions.

NC Seeks (More) Disaster Declaration After Flooding

RALEIGH – Gov. Pat McCrory has asked the U.S. Small Business Administration to declare seven North Carolina counties stricken by recent flooding as disaster areas.

If approved, the federal declaration McCrory sought Friday will qualify flooding victims eligible for low-interest government loans to repair or replace damaged homes or businesses.

Up to a foot of rain fell within a few hours in portions of Catawba and Lincoln counties on July 27, causing numerous low-lying areas to flood for the second or third time in the past two months. Residents in neighboring Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Iredell, Lincoln and Mecklenburg counties were also affected by high water.

State officials said initial reports indicate approximately 600 homes and businesses in CatawbaCounty were impacted. Of those, 30 were destroyed or had major damage.

Eastgate Ready For Business, Concern Remains

CHAPEL HILL -After flooding from nearly seven inches of rain in a 24-hour period left damaged homes and businesses, at least one business owner at Eastgate Shopping Center says she’s concerned you’ll be less likely to shop there.

“Our customers are concerned about ongoing problems in the Eastgate area that might lead to more flooding,” says Keilayn Skutvik, Store Manager of Ten Thousand Villages. “I tend to think that the level of rain that we had during that week made it almost impossible to accommodate it. I don’t feel like this particular area is prone to more flooding, unless it’s extraordinary circumstances like that. I hope that people feel like it’s a safe place to shop.”

One month after the flooding, all the businesses in Eastgate Shopping Center, off of Franklin Street, are finally open and ready for customers.

Skutvik says the shop was closed for two weeks, but luckily did not lose many products.

“The entire store’s flooring had to be replaced, which resulted in about $10,000 in loss of sales,” says Skutvik.

Skutvik estimated that Ten Thousand Villages ultimately lost nearly $25,000 in sales during the closure.

Doncaster Outlet faced some repairs as well, but Store Manager Cathy Steed says she’s unsure of the total costs.

“We had to pull up the floors, the base boards, some of the sheet rock, and then we had to have the dehumidifiers and fans to dry everything out,” says Steed. “We had the floor put back in. We put carpet, baseboards back in.”

Assistant Manager at Massage Envy, Gabrielle Harris says repairs included replacing carpets, some walls, and furniture, along with painting.

After closing for exactly three weeks, Harris says Massage Envy is now trying to attract customers with offers including aromatherapies and sugar foot scrubs.

She says Massage Envy is still undergoing renovations, with two more massage therapy rooms that need carpeting.

“We’re just happy,” Harris says. “The therapists are happy to be back at work. I’m happy to be back at work, and the clients are definitely happy. We’re still doing a few renovations, but we’ll be back to 100 percent in no time.”

NWS: The Heavy Rain May Miss The Triangle To The East

RALEIGH – National Weather Service Meteorologist Phil Badgett joined Ron Stutts on the WCHL Friday Morning News to discuss the day’s forecast and just how likely flooding may be for Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County.

***Listen to the Interview***

For the latest forecast, click here.

Flooding: Closings, Cancellations, and Changes

Due to the threat of inclement weather and possible flooding, Thursday’s Locally Grown Movie, Ghostbusters, has been moved to the Hargraves Community Center.

The Central North Carolina Red Cross Chapter’s Flood Assistance Center is still open at the University Mall (201 S. Estes Drive inside the mall between Dillard’s and GNC)

Chapel Hill Prepares For Additional Flooding Possibility

CHAPEL HILL – More heavy rain could test the creeks and storm water system in Chapel Hill just less than two weeks after it witnessed one of its worst floods in history.

“Be prepared to take care of yourself at the start of it all,” says Town of Chapel Hill’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Robert Bosworth. “And, if you get into a situation where it is life-and-death, that’s where the 911 calls are so important so that we can get the responders out to those areas. But, the biggest thing is to be aware of your situation.”

The Town’s Stormwater Management Division recorded 7.86 inches of rainfall between June 28 and July 1. The heaviest of the rain (5.06 inches) fell within 19 hours.

Though the waters receded, the area has seen small amounts of rain since then, which Bosworth says has not allowed the creeks and reservoirs to catch up.

“One of the things we were taught from a week and a half ago is just how quickly that can happen,” Bosworth says. “We’re sort of in that same vulnerable state just because there’s nowhere really for the water to go—we’re still so saturated on the ground.”

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

Bosworth says it’s important for people who were affected—and everyone in the Town—to learn from last week’s flood.

“Because, we know just how quickly the water comes up,” Bosworth says. “You need to be thinking about where you’re going to park your car so that it doesn’t get damaged by flood. You need to be aware of when it starts raining and do you have a way to get away from (it) if you are in a flood-prone area so that you don’t get caught up in the flood; or, other measures such as sheltering in place. If you’re on a ground-floor apartment, do you know that you can go to the second floor and wait it out?”

For an up-to-date forecast, click here.

NWS: “The Heavy Rain Will Come In Fits And Starts”

RALEIGH – The National Weather Service in Raleigh issued a flash flood watch for central North Carolina, including Alamance, Chatham, Durham, and Orange counties until Thursday evening.

National Weather Service Science Operations Officer, Jonathan Blaes says there’s no way of knowing exactly when or where the rains may hit.

“The heavy rain will come in fits and starts,” Blaes says. “It will be, not widespread or to the affect where it’s raining all the time, but when we do get any showers or thunderstorms, they will be capable of producing extremely heavy rain. They’ll be slow-moving, so there’s a potential that when it rains hard, it could be raining very hard over any given location.”

And Blaes says there’s not just one cell that the Weather Service is monitoring.

“There’s not an obvious line or feature that’s easy to describe, but there will likely be multiple rounds of these kind of clusters of thunderstorms moving across central North Carolina during the next 12-24 hours,” Blaes says. “So, just because you have one go through doesn’t mean there won’t be any more later in the day or overnight.”

To see an up-to-date forecast, click here.

CH Officials Warn of Fraudsters, Mosquitoes & More Rain

CHAPEL HILL- The rain kept falling Wednesday morning, even as town and county officials came together to update the community on efforts to clean up and dry out in Chapel Hill.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt told the crowd that Sunday’s rains and flooding were unlike anything the town has experienced in the past.

“We experienced an historic rainfall here in Chapel Hill. Five to seven inches in a 24 hour period proved to be too much for our facilities,” said Kleinschmidt.

And there may be unexpected problems in the days to come.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue warned that fraudulent contractors may soon start going door-to-door, looking to profit from unwary flood victims.

“Those contractors are going to come knocking on doors sooner than any of us are ready for, I’m sure,” said Blue.

He urged residents to check with the Better Business Bureau and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce for a list of approved contractors who are familiar with local regulations.

Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones said the area will see an explosion of mosquitoes, which could pose a health threat.

“Think about children that are in play areas where there maybe standing water in grass, because the mosquito influx from this amount of water is going to be huge,” said Jones.

With more rain in the forecast, Chief Jones once again warned residents not to drive through flood water, as even just a few inches are enough to pose a danger to motorists. He said emergency officials had multiple calls to rescue people trapped in stalled vehicles during Sunday’s storm.

Orange County declared a state of emergency on Tuesday. Orange County EMS Director Jim Groves said damage assessment teams are taking stock, and there is the possibility that flood victims could receive state or federal aid.

Sunday’s flooding left more than 130 residences uninhabitable. About nineteen displaced people are staying in the temporary shelter set up at Smith Middle School, while many more are staying with family or friends. Groves urged the community to reach out with any available resources.

“If people have spaces available, we encourage them to contact the social services office,” said Groves. “Also if they have clothing that they want to donate or if they have money that they want to donate to these victims, they can write a check to our department of social services.”

Officials stressed that while the clean up efforts are progressing smoothly, full recovery from the flooding could be weeks, or even months away.

If you’d like to help, or if you need help recovering from Sunday’s floods, check out the resources listed below:

Orange County Department of Social Services

Triangle Red Cross

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce

141 Residents From Three Complexes Affected By Flooding

CHAPEL HILL – Nearly 150 residences in three apartment and condominium complexes were damaged or destroyed by Sunday and Monday’s flood waters, according to the Town of Chapel Hill.

Sixty-eight of the 106 units at Camelot Village, 22 of the 124 units at Booker Creek, and 51 units at Brookwood Condominiums sustained water damage.

Chapel Hill transit sent a bus to Camelot Village to assist with transportation to the temporary emergency shelter set up at Smith Middle School. However, only one person used that service.

Cleanup continues Tuesday with more heavy rainfall expected before Wednesday evening. Damage assessment teams are visiting the Village Green Condos, University Mall, and Hillsborough Street on Tuesday.

Orange County Animal Services is also trying to reunite displaced pets with their owners. Photos and updates on the missing animals can be seen on the Animal Services website, but right now Orange County officials have found three chickens, two cats  and two dogs with unknown owners.

For pictures from the storm, click here.

For pictures from the aftermath and clean up efforts, click here.

For information on how to avoid injury and disease after the storm, click here.

“The Sisters'” Garden Damaged, But Not Destroyed

CHAPEL HILL – A tree fell on the porch of “The Sisters” on Gimghoul road, just missing the house and the porch roof around 9:30 Monday morning.  It was a spectacular site, but the twins are unhurt and the house is remarkably undamaged.

“The Sisters,” as they are known, are Chapel Hill’s iconic identical twins, Bernice Stiles and Barbara Wade, now 98 years old.  They are known far and wide for their lovely garden, filled with spring and summer blooms that are chosen and cultivated so diligently that they are a destination attraction for locals and tourists alike.

When the garden is ready to be seen in the spring, they post a sign by the front walk, “The Garden Is Open.”  Everyone is invited to stroll through and enjoy.  The sign became the title of the first popup book by Chapel Hill author and artist Pamela Pease.  A picture of The Sisters cottage was a dominant feature in that book.  The home has been the subject of artists’ paintings for many years.

The sisters are so revered in the community that on the Battle Park corner of Gimghoul and Glandon roads, there is an open area that has been decorated with benches and markers designating it as, “The Sisters Corner.”

Thus, when the tree fell in such spectacular fashion blocking the view of the house from the road, there was widespread concern among many in the community.  The large red oak was on the side of the house and fell on the part of the front porch that is uncovered.

Barbara and Bernice have asked us to tell everyone that they are just fine, that the sun will return, the tree will be gone and the garden will be “more beautiful than ever.”