Mopping up: assessing flood damage
by Anna Oakes and Kellen Moore
A preliminary damage assessment team from the state Division of Emergency Management will visit Watauga County Friday to assist local officials in preparing a cost estimate of damages from last week's flooding.
"I have not got a firm handle on any estimates yet as it seems each day someone finds or alerts us to more damage," said Steve Sudderth, Watauga County emergency management coordinator, on Wednesday. "These figures will be reviewed at the state and federal level to determine if any assistance for the flood damage to structures is available."
Sudderth said earlier in the week that the county had thus far identified 29 homes, including apartments, and six businesses with flood damage. If your home or business sustained damage and you have not yet reported it, call (828) 264-4235 to do so.
Flood damages to state-maintained roads in Watauga County are estimated between $400,000 and $500,000, said Kevin Whittington, highway maintenance engineer for Watauga County.
"Mainly that's on secondary routes, with some damage on primary routes," he said. Damages to roads include the loss of asphalt, gravel and shoulders and failures of pipes, culverts and other storm water structures.
"All of our roads are being traveled by school buses except Seven Oaks," he said. One lane of Seven Oaks Road is closed where a pipe was almost washed out.
Whittington said repairs can be completed within 30 days, but it could take longer depending on the weather.
The town of Boone's Greenway Trail, located in the floodplain of the South Fork New River, also saw some damages, "but overall we fared pretty well," said Eric Gustaveson, facility maintenance superintendent for the town's Public Works Department.
Debris accumulated at bridges, benches and picnic tables. The trail surrounding the wetlands pond near Clawson-Burnley Park lost some gravel, and the "third bridge" -- the one closest to the town's wastewater treatment facility -- sustained minor damage on the northern side. A couple of bank areas along the Watauga High School connector trail may need to be reinforced, he said.
"I think we can handle it pretty much within our budget," he said.
Six of the county's recreation fields, located in the same area as the Greenway Trail off of State Farm Road, are covered in flood debris, have damaged fences and have likely lost brick dust from infield areas, said Stephen Poulos, director of the Watauga County Parks and Recreation Department.
Repairs could require a request for funding from the county commissioners. The county leases some fields from the town of Boone and the Boone Optimist Club. Because of differing lease agreements, the county will cover the costs of repair to town-owned fields, but the Optimist Club will be responsible for its fields.
Spring baseball and softball programs generally begin in mid-March and early April.
Businesses suffer losses
At Hampton's Body Shop, wrecker drivers were active throughout the night of the flood and the following day to assist customers with ruined cars, owner Dwayne Hampton said.
Meanwhile, their own shop on Boone Docks Street was filling with more than 25 inches of water.
The result was a headache for both Hampton's and for some customers whose vehicles were parked on the lot.
"We only had approximately 10 to 12 vehicles that actually got flooded," Hampton said. "So we were fortunate on that. We moved what we could while we could. We probably saved 60."
Hampton said employees have been so busy with customers that they haven't had time to thoroughly check on the condition of the company's vehicles. He estimated that more than $150,000 in damage had occurred at the business.
The body shop hired a hazmat team to drain the shop immediately after the flooding and a carpet cleaner who worked Friday evening, he said.
"The rest of it we've just been trying to do ourselves," he said, adding that the freeze just hours after the flood made outdoor cleanup much more difficult.
At The Carpet House across the street, large construction dumpsters have become a common sight as the business works to gut its flooded interior.
Appalachian State University's Belk Library experienced some flooding in a basement communications closet. Water splashed onto an electrical circuit and tripped the breaker, causing some problems with the library's website last week, said Pat Sweet, facilities superintendent for the library.
Flood waters also entered a couple of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System administrative buildings on Furman and Deerfield roads.
Restoration business booming
While some businesses have been crippled by the storm, those that specialize in flood restoration are moving nonstop.
Dan Stewart, owner of Dolbier Disaster Restoration, said his staff has been working 12-hour days every day since the storm.
Among their clients is a woman in her 90s who was evacuated from her home by firefighters. She was able to move back in Wednesday, he said.
"We kind of made her a priority, to kind of do everything we can to get her back in her house," Stewart said.
Stewart said that the vast majority of his customers are paying for services out of pocket.
"From what I'm finding, most people in the mountains don't have flood insurance," he said.
Stewart urged flood victims to save their receipts in case federal or state disaster assistance funding becomes available. He also urged all homeowners to clean out their gutters and ensure that drainage areas around the home are not clogged in case of another heavy rainstorm.
Mike Reed, owner of Mr. Restoration, also urged anyone with flood damage to make sure their homes are dried property and cleaned with antimicrobial products to prevent mold growth.
He said the company has responded to about a dozen customers since the storm, with cleanup costs ranging from $3,000 to $125,000.
"The town got hit pretty hard," he said.