Cover Story: Flood prone and flood preps

Posted by Sarah Hildmann - email
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Flooding a real problem in urban areas in Charlotte.  We've seen flooding on Briar Creek Road with previous weather events.  The Doral apartments lie right in the floodplain zone.  That's why the county has placed flood sensors in the area.  Those sensors alert emergency responders when the water levels get too high.
Primetime's Jeff Atkinson explains why flooding is a problem in Charlotte, and how the city is help keeping you safe.

Experts say most flood deaths happen in vehicles.  Ninety-percent of all natural disasters in America involve flooding.

Josh McSwain with the Flood Information and Notification System (FINS) for Mecklenburg County, showed us how the system records rainfall and how much room there is in the creek until it floods.

Late Tuesday afternoon for example, Little Sugar Creek at Carolinas Medical Center had about eight feet to go before the creek would overtop its banks.

He says this is the type of situation is where Charlotte Mecklenburg gets into trouble.

A day of steady rains accompanied by a storm cell that sits over the area and dumps water.  Areas of town prone to flooding do so. 

"This time of the year is a bad time of the year to have heavy rainfall with the leaf fall. You got all that just clogging up storm drains on the streets. Debris in the creeks, it's tough to deal with because this system's not set up to account for debris in the creeks. It's set up to account for natural conditions," said McSwain.

It's for that purpose an early warning flood system known as FINS, was put in place.  FINS is a joint cooperative between Charlotte Mecklenburg and the US Geological Survey.  FINS places equipment in the ten most flood prone areas of Charlotte.  That equipment will automatically notify emergency responders when rainfall amounts or stream depths reach a certain threshold.

Those ten FINS sites, are part of a larger network made up of more than 30 stream gauges and more than 70 rain guages throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg.  In a drought or downpour, these guages send out rain and stream depth data around the clock to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services and to the US Geological Survey.

Storm Water Services then uses this data to come up with long-term solutions to flooding problems.