Plan For the Worst

Hurricane Florence had numerous effects on North Carolina: Flooded neighborhoods, ruined crops, damaged infrastructure, and submerged businesses to name a few.  All that water created what state officials were calling a 500 to 1000 year flood.

Indeed, floods put portions of the Lumber, Cape Fear, and Neuse at record or near-record flood levels.  One of the negative effects of the storm was inundation of poultry houses, swine farms  and hog waste lagoons located in the floodplain.  The State estimated that waste from 50 lagoons washed out into the floodwaters and that 5,500 pigs and 3.4 million chickens drowned. While awful, many of these same facilities were flooded 2 years ago by Hurricane Matthew and/or 20 years ago by Hurricane Floyd.

How can the state better prepare for future storms?  Twenty years ago, the state began a program to move hog facilities out of the floodplain.  Reportedly, 43 high risk hog farms either moved or were closed in the years following Floyd. While a positive step, increased funding is needed to relocate the many remaining hog farms from the 500-year floodplain which seems to be the new norm for planning purposes.

After three 500 year storms in 20 years, planning for extreme events is something the state should undertake to minimize environmental impacts from future extreme weather events.

Organic matter in Florence’s floodwaters flowing from rivers to the ocean.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

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