Storm runoff causes downstream dangers

Posted September 10, 2008 5:17 p.m. EDT
Updated September 10, 2008 10:48 p.m. EDT

— Days after Tropical Storm Hanna washed over the Carolinas, the debris streaming down the Neuse River is more plentiful than it has been since Hurricane Floyd nine years ago.

Storm waters pushed large limbs, whole trees and piles of trash up against the supports of bridges in Johnston County, causing a clean-up nightmare.

Bobby Lewis, a maintenance engineer for the state Department of Transportation, cited two concerns.

First, the larger pieces of debris could hit a bridge with enough force to damage it. Second, the water backed up behind the piles swirls, causing erosion underneath that could weaken the structural integrity of bridges.

"What we're trying to do is get it out as quickly as possible," Lewis said, but he predicted the operation might take up to three weeks in Johnston County.

Lewis said two years of drought reduced the natural flow of the Neuse. After Hanna, water flow increased and loose debris is all washing downstream at once, causing the clogs.