CARRBORO — When Hurricane Dennis hit parts of North Carolina 13 years ago, Laura Linnan’s yard flooded.
When Hurricane Floyd hit two weeks later, it sent Tom’s Creek over its banks a second time and Linnan’s property in Carrboro’s Plantation Acres neighborhood flooded again
Now the problem is getting worse.
“In the last six months the creek overflowed three times,” Linnan said.
The problem of flooding in Plantation Acres is not unique to Linnan’s yard, which is about three feet from the creek.
More than 40 residents recently signed a petition, asking the Carrboro Board of Aldermen for help.
“The neighbors signed the petition to let the aldermen know we have a problem, and we want them to do something about it,” said Allen Spalt, a former alderman and resident of James Street in Plantation Acres.
Spalt said the neighborhood’s seen more flooding this year than any year before.
“There have been six floods since I moved in, and three floods during this past summer,” he said.
When he moved in to his house in 1984, the area had fewer homes and more undeveloped land to absorb rainwater.
“Development makes water run off faster,” Spalt said. “When we moved in, a lot of these lots were empty. If you got an inch of rain, it got absorbed where it landed. But roofs and parking lots don’t absorb water.”
Concrete culverts run beneath the streets and at parts of the stream to prevent flooding. But during unusually heavy rain, the creek carries much more water than the culverts were designed to carry.
Tony Galfano, who lives on Rainbow Street, said his property saw enormous flooding during the most recent heavy rain.
“It was the worst yet,” Galfano said. “The water came up all the way to our driveway. It does seem to be getting closer and closer to parts of the building.”
During wet weather, the creek is “like a raging river because it’s backing up at the culvert,” Linnan said. The water carries debris that blocks the culverts and collects on her property.
Spalt said the creek can reach three feet deep and 50 feet wide during storms.
With increased developments and changing weather patterns, the culverts can’t contain the storm water runoff as they used to, residents say.
Spalt said expanding the culverts might help some residents in Plantation Acres, but not those homes downstream the water would reach more quickly.
Carrboro Mark Chilton said the solution is not as simple as making the culverts larger because doing so would carry more pollutants faster and increase pollution in Jordan Lake.
He also said replacing the existing culverts would be very expensive.
The Board of Aldermen voted to refer the issue to town staff and hear back about it later this year.
Spalt wants the town staff to solve the flooding problem in an systemic way, rather than addressing the issue for a few houses in the neighborhood.
“The best thing for the town to do would be to go door to door and ask each homeowner what problems they have.”