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2002 News from Mecklenburg County
July 18, 2002

FIVE YEARS AFTER THE FLOOD:
LESSONS LEARNED IN '97 PROTECT LIVES AND PROPERTY 

Charlotte, NC— Anyone who was in Mecklenburg County on July 23, 1997, will never forget the images: raging creeks and flooded roadways, hundreds of homes under several feet of water, a 210-ton locomotive plunging into the Little Sugar Creek, more than $50 million in property damage, and three deaths. Now five years later, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services is marking the lessons learned during that flood and how its floodplain management program has stepped up efforts to protect life and property in the future. 

The flood of 1997, caused by the remnants of Hurricane Danny, offers many before-and-after examples: 

·            During the flood, 615 people were evacuated from their homes and three people died. Since then, Mecklenburg County has removed 122 homes from the floodplain through its buyout program and relocated 135 families from harm's way. 

·      Just a few miles upstream from where a CSX locomotive crashed into the Little Sugar Creek, the new 12.5 mile Little Sugar Creek Greenway will begin, linking communities across Mecklenburg County. 

·      During the flood, homes along Westfield Drive in Myers Park were turned into a soggy mess.  Today, 14 acres of green space line the Little Sugar Creek where dozens of homes were purchased and demolished.  The space will become part of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. 

·      In 1997, federally maintained floodplain maps were outdated.  Today, Charlotte-Mecklenburg has re-mapped all of the floodplains and regulates new development based on those maps. 

·      In 1997, many residents were caught unaware.  An early warning system utilizing gauges across the County is now in the final stages of development. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services has two floodplain management objectives, according to Dave Canaan, director of Water & Land Resources.  "Our mission is to save lives and reduce the damage caused by flooding," says Canaan.  "We also want to preserve and restore the natural functions of the floodplain, which means regulating areas before building occurs and removing flood-prone structures that currently exist." 

For more information on Mecklenburg County policies designed to prevent or minimize another such event, check http://www.stormwaterservices.com/.  To report flooding or other storm water problems, or for general information, residents can call City-County Customer Service at 704-336-RAIN.



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