Local News

Belhaven Rises Above Flood Waters Thanks To Elevation Project

Posted September 24, 2003

— One coastal community has many sad stories to tell about hurricanes and damaging floods. But after Hurricane Isabel, many in Belhaven said they remained high and dry.

Chad Bond can get back to his job because this time, unlike after past hurricanes, flood waters did not get into his home.

In 1998, the town started using state and federal funds to put endangered homes on stilts.

"We made out better in this storm, more than the others, because our house has been raised during the FEMA project," he said.

Over the five years since Hurricane Floyd, 320 Belhaven homes were replaced or raised several feet in a $16 million program. Federal officials have seen the difference those few feet have made.

"They've told us we're the poster child for elevation projects now. That is by far been the most successful elevation project they've ever had," town manager Tim Johnson said.

Johnson said raising the homes costs taxpayers a third less than a buyout program. He said he plans to apply for more money to save other homes from future storms -- homes like Larry Pleasant's.

This time, Pleasant only lost what was stored in his garage, but he knows it could be worse next time.

"The water came up to the front door. Had it come up another 2 inches, we would have been wet inside," Pleasant said. ""The water rose incredibly fast. I've never seen anything like it."

All of Belhaven sits within a 100-year flood plain. Town leaders hope one day to be so far above the problem that cleaning up tree limbs and debris will be their toughest job.

Many businesses in Belhaven did not fare as well as the raised homes. Businesses were not part of the elevation project.

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