Outlook improves for Blackwater flooding, but downtown merchants still on alert

Published 12:41 pm Sunday, August 28, 2011

Elbert Brown and Debbie Sutton prepare bankers boxes of files for possible flooding of the Blackwater River and their downtown Franklin business.

FRANKLIN—Elbert Brown hasn’t forgotten about the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd and what the 26-foot crest of the Blackwater River did to his real estate appraisal business.

“We didn’t prepare for Floyd and we had to throw everything out,” Brown said. “Nothing was salvageable.”

Now a partner in Blackwater Appraisals on Main Street with Billy Sutton, Brown started packing up Sunday morning in anticipation of floods in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Brown and other downtown business owners and residents got good news midday Sunday, when the projected crest of the river was lowered from more than 20 feet to 18.1 feet at 3 a.m. Wednesday. If the new projection is accurate, only a handful of downtown businesses would be flooded.

Still, Sutton wasn’t taking any chances.

“We operate in paper and electronics,” Sutton said. “We’ve had smoke, an earthquake and now this. We’re going to be proactive.”

Vince Holt, Franklin’s Emergency Operations Chief, told Franklin City Council members during a called meeting Sunday that projections show that only five businesses would be in any way affected by the flooding at this stage. The businesses that will be affected are below a 14-foot base floor elevation.

“It will be a very minimal impact,” Holt said. “It will be nowhere close to what we experienced in 2006.”

The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service estimates a Tuesday crest of 18.1 feet for the Blackwater, which puts it in the moderate flood stage.

Franklin Fire Capt. Tim Dunn said the moderate flood damage at 18.1 feet would have a minimal impact on businesses and residents downtown. He said low-lying areas and roadways would be the main concerns.

“We’re telling everyone to monitor the situation closely,” Dunn said. “It’s a fluid situation and it could shift either way. If you’re in an area that has been affected by floods of this size before, you should make arrangements.”

Parts of Franklin Street, Bowers Street, the far-east end of 2nd Avenue, E. Jackson Street and the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant all could ptentially be affected by flood conditions, said Downtown Franklin Association Executive Director Dan Howe.

The level is higher than what was experienced during Hurricane Isabel in 2003 but much less than what was experienced during Floyd, which caused major downtown flooding in 1999. The projected crest also would be well below a fall 2006 flood.

Brown said he is not too concerned about the flooding risk, but he wanted to take precautions.

“It’s better to be prepared than to be sorry later,” Brown said.