Peering past the flowers, hearts and Valentine’s Day gifts on display at downtown Swansboro’s Through The Looking Glass, a visitor can still see signs of the flood from 2018’s Hurricane Florence.
A gap in the historic molding next to the door, for instance, sits exactly four feet off the ground, indicating where owners David Pinsky and Hal Silver cut away sodden sheet rock and tore out damp insulation. And the floors are painted concrete now because it is easier, David Pinsky said, to wash down and repaint concrete than to tear out wet carpet.
“We’re back open and doing like we should, but still that’s a lot to recover and a lot to recoup,” Pinsky said. The store is still trying to replace about $30,000 in inventory it lost during the flood, he said.
Much of Swansboro’s Florence-related damage came after relentless winds damaged roofs, leaving structures unable to keep out the 30 inches of rain. Through The Looking Glass and other businesses in Swansboro’s historic downtown area, though, suffered significant flooding from the White Oak River: The riverside location that once made the Onslow County town famous for its shipbuilding and fishing industries could become increasingly precarious in a world where sea levels are projected to rise one to eight feet by century’s end, depending on efforts to curb emissions.
While cities like Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, Va., have resilience officers and mapped-out strategies to protect against rising waters, North Carolina’s coast and inland areas most vulnerable to river flooding tend to be dotted with small towns that are focused on maintaining basic services. Local officials and experts said it can be difficult for these governments to gain the expertise to undertake resilience planning or the funds to make those plans become reality.