The beach town of Duck has hired a university set in the mountains to analyze its vulnerability to flooding — "building to building and road to road."
Outer Banks towns have experienced some of the worst flooding in their histories in recent years. Tides are rising higher and heavy rains inundate streets and drainage systems more often. Storms more frequently push waters inland from the sounds on one side and from the ocean on the other.
Officials have widened beaches, built up dunes, elevated houses, enlarged drain lines and built new shoreline protection structures in attempts to control flooding and erosion. Planners agonize over and try to plan for what flooding disaster the next storm might bring.
Duck will try still another tool.
Thanks to a $20,000 grant from the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, the town is contracting with a team from Western Carolina University to assess flooding hazards. The study will take about eight months and is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
"It will help us know where to focus our efforts," said town manager Chris Layton. "Adaptation has been the approach in the Town of Duck and that is expected to continue."
Duck is a town of 400 people that swells to several thousand during the tourist season. Lines of vehicles pass through on N.C. 12 and crowds walk the streets from shop to shop. The highway notoriously floods along parts of Duck, blocking traffic. That's just one problem.
"There are a variety of exposed structures in Duck," said Rob Young, director of the university's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines and professor of coastal geology. "We'll be going building to building and road to road."
The team will list facilities and their vulnerability to flooding and offer general options on what to do. It will not give specific solutions and costs for each structure, Layton said. The town plans to incorporate results of the study into its land use plan, a state requirement for coastal counties, Layton said.
Duck will be the first municipality to undergo the study, Young said. The university's program has evaluated national parks including Cape Hatteras National Seashore.