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Macon flood damage exceeds $1 million

fr floodingHeavy rains and high waters in December have resulted in more than $1 million in flood damage in Macon County.

About 30 residential homes and at least 23 private roads and bridges were damaged following heavy rains before and after Christmas. The county experienced a record rainfall in December — almost 19 inches for the month, about 15 inches of that falling after Dec. 21. 

Warren Cabe, Macon County emergency management director, said the county’s preliminary damage estimates were still being calculated, but so far residential damage is totaling $345,000 and bridge, road and culvert damage is $486,000.  

“We’re just now totaling damage to public properties, which include all the recreation facilities that tend to be located in lower-lying areas or flood-prone areas, but right now it’s over $300,000 worth of damage and we’re still compiling those numbers,” Cabe said. 

Cabe said there were about 30 homes that were deemed unsafe to inhabit following the rainfall due either to flooding or landslides. That number is now down to four families who are unable to occupy their homes because of damage. Only one of those was due to flood damage while the other three were because of a landslide. 

“The others weren’t flood-damaged but were involved in heavy debris flow where a slope failure endangered the foundations,” Cabe said. “One of those was one up on Cullasaja and then there were two more at Mill Creek condos.”

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Macon County Commission Chairman Kevin Corbin declared a state of emergency during the heavy rainfall, which will allow the county to be eligible for financial assistance from the state and the federal government for cleanup. 

The county requested a damage assessment from the state last week, and the state sent out inspectors to conduct surveys on Jan. 7-8. 

“They looked at different areas and will take their figures back to Raleigh and plug them into their formulas to see if there’s any chance for disaster relief funding for those individuals affected,” Cabe said. 

Looking at the numbers, Cabe said it’s hard to tell whether the damage will be enough to receive outside funding. He said he should hear something definite from the state by the end of the week.

“We had a lot of significant damage in the $10,000 to $20,000 range, but we didn’t haven’t any structures classified as over 40 percent damaged, so I’m not 100 percent confident but we’ll try every avenue possible,” he said. 

Cabe said a representative from the North Carolina Baptist Men contacted him over the weekend to get a list of affected families to see if the organization can help those people with housing and clothing. Farm Service Agency is reaching out to farmers to assess the damage to their crops and fencing to see if assistance is warranted. 

Swain County also experienced high waters during the holidays, but Emergency Management Director David Breedlove said the county didn’t get the amount of rainfall Macon County did. He said the Tuckasegee River reached the flood stage on Christmas Eve but not much damage as homes along the river are prepared for that level of flooding. People on the river have plans in place for flooding and most homes are built up 10 feet to avoid significant damage. 

Bear Hunter Campground is another place that is accustomed to flooding since it’s low lying and right on the river. Breedlove said the campground can easily flood three times a year and the owners know when to alert their RV residents that they need to relocate to higher ground on the other side of the property. 

“Along the river close to town it floods about once a year. You get heavy rains in Jackson County and in the national park and it all runs downhill to us,” Breedlove said. “Then Duke Energy — if the reservoir gets full they have to release water so that adds to the situation.”

Even though the flooding in December was significant, Breedlove said water levels were still a foot lower than they were during the 2004 floods. 

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