Wilmington, NC, is a highly desirable area. The Cape Fear River is on one side, and the Atlantic Ocean is on the other. There are beautiful beaches for lounging and inlets for boat cruising. The temperatures are moderate (it may snow once a year, if that), and there are activities to do year-round. However, like other areas of the country, we deal with extreme weather. While northern states have snowstorms or blizzards, we have hurricanes and tropical storms. Whenever we get a relatively bad hurricane, there’s one question that’s top of buyers’ minds – where did it flood in Wilmington?…And every surrounding area from Wrightsville Beach to Hampstead.
Flooding Can Be Unpredictable
No one wants to buy in a community that floods. However, we live on the coast where there is lots of water, and there are communities that we can just expect will flood when a large storm comes through. These communities usually have homes built on pilings.
Of course, not all communities are that transparent. As a blanket solution, there are flood maps that will tell you the chances of a property flooding. Each property in our area is assigned a flood zone based on elevation and its proximity to a body of water. This zone can determine if flood insurance is required by lenders. However, as many have learned in the past, flood zones don’t guarantee your home will or will not be damaged by flood waters.
The thought of a category 3, 4, or 5 hurricane can cause great unease in a homeowner, but the most recent storm that caused flooding damage in Southeastern North Carolina was a category 1 when it made landfall. The month Hurricane Florence hit, we already had a record rainfall. Our ground was saturated, and Florence was very slow moving. It dumped over 24” of rainfall on Wilmington.
Where did it flood in Wilmington? Basically, every region of the city saw flooding during Hurricane Florence. There were a lot of impassable roads, but not every community saw homes damaged from rising waters. Keep in mind that some homes received water damage when the hurricane’s high winds tore up roofs.
During Hurricane Florence, the flood waters didn’t just come from the river cresting and the ocean’s extreme tides. Certain neighborhoods flooded, because water systems became overwhelmed from the heavy rainfall and failed to drain properly. This type of flooding can’t be accurately reflected in flood maps.
Residents have talked about making a map of neighborhoods that flooded during Hurricane Florence, but it’s important to understand that no two hurricanes are the same. Change the angle of landfall, change the wind speed, change the preceding weather patterns – all of it could produce different results. A neighborhood that didn’t flood during Hurricane Florence could in the next hurricane. Plus, it’s often on a property-by-property basis, rather than a neighborhood one. Not every property in a neighborhood will flood if home lots are at different elevations.
We don’t tell you this to scare you. We tell you this so you can be realistic in your home purchase.
How to Find a Low Flood-Risk Property
If flooding is a major concern for you, here are some steps you can take before the end of your Due Diligence Period to verify the odds are low for your new home flooding:
- Thanks to local news, we’ve all heard of local communities that were hard hit by flooding in recent hurricanes. Be mindful of these communities and understand why those issues occurred (a nearby estuary cresting, overloaded drainage system, etc.). Take the steps necessary to avoid them, and keep in mind that the city and county have been making repairs and upgrades since the storm to alleviate issues in certain communities.
- Check flood maps. They are the most consistent in pinpointing areas that may experience flooding. Also, you can review flooding from Hurricane Florence at these two sources:
- The South Carolina Emergency Management Division created a searchable map of Hurricane Florence and flooding imagery produced by NASA, NOAA, and the Civil Air Patrol. It includes images of our area.
- Atmospheric and Environmental Research used their FloodScan system to detect flooding that happened during Hurricane Florence. You can see their maps here.
- Find out the home’s elevation. There are phone apps and websites that can give you this information. If it’s a high lot, the chances of flooding are lower. There is no guarantee your home won’t flood, but it’s one of multiple factors to consider in relation to the others. The Washington Post has some good information on water surge that happened during Hurricane Florence, including the point Wrightsville Beach reached 4ft above normal tide levels.
- Chat with neighbors. This can be in person or as part of a neighborhood Facebook group or Nextdoor community. Ask them how the area fared during past storms. Did homes flood or just streets? If flooding was caused by malfunctioning equipment, has it been fixed?
Committing to a Property
After you purchase the home, secure flood insurance, even if it’s not in a flood zone. The good news is that flood insurance on a home not in a flood zone is much cheaper than one that is. FEMA has provided some guidance for purchasing flood insurance. Remember, it doesn’t go into effect until 30 days AFTER you purchase it. So, don’t wait too long.
Also, be prepared to protect your most treasured valuables. The extra effort you make before a hurricane is forecast will make you more at ease at the peak of the season. If you’ve never experienced a hurricane before, planning for one can be nerve-racking. Here are some tips for preparing your home.
Hurricanes are a trade-off that we must endure to live on our beautiful coast. When in doubt, here are some things to keep in mind:
- There’s no way to ever be 100% prepared when there’s a greater force at work (whichever one you believe in). Hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, forest fires, flooding…every area of the U.S. has its own natural or nature-based threat.
- This area has experienced hurricanes for as long as records exist. There are homes in downtown Wilmington built in the 1800s, and they’re still standing. That’s saying something.
- Hurricanes are actually good for nature, including replenishing barrier islands and inland plant life – all of which make the Wilmington area a popular place to live.
If you have any questions about purchasing a home in the Wilmington area, give us a call at (910) 202-2546 or send us a message. We can provide local knowledge and experience.
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