The dominant sources of flooding in the City of New Bern are storm surge and riverine flooding. Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm. Storm surge is produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around a hurricane. Riverine flooding occurs when excessive rainfall or surface water runoff causes a river to exceed its capacity.
In 1996, Hurricane Fran hit New Bern with winds blowing just under 100 mph. This resulted in an almost 10-foot storm surge and about 8 inches of rain, together causing large amounts of flooding for our area.
In 2018, Hurricane Florence struck New Bern as a Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, but the massive wind field broke all-time high-water records. The storm surge measured in at 10.41 feet and rainfall totals reached upwards of 16 inches, resulting in some of the worst flooding this area has ever experienced.
The North Carolina Flood Risk Information System (FRIS) can be used to provide hazard information for a specific address. Risk information, financial vulnerability, flood insurance premium estimates, and other helpful information can all be accessed here.
Insure Your Property for Your Flood Hazard
Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover any type of flooding that originates outside of the home. Under the National Flood Insurance Act, lenders must require borrowers whose property is located within a Special Flood Hazard Area to purchase flood insurance as a condition of receiving a federally backed loan. The City of New Bern participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), meaning City residents are eligible to purchase federal flood insurance. After paying a premium there is a 30-day waiting period before the policy is effective. If the initial purchase of flood insurance is in connection with the making, increasing, extending, or renewing of a loan, there is no waiting period. If the initial purchase of flood insurance is made during the one-year period following the adoption of a revised Flood Insurance Rate Map for a community, the waiting period is only one day.
Flood insurance is available to protect homes, condominiums, apartments, and non-residential buildings, including commercial structures. A maximum of $250,000 of building coverage is available for single-family residential buildings; $250,000 per unit for multi-family residences. The limit for contents coverage on all residential buildings is $100,000, which is also available to renters. Commercial structures can be insured to a limit of $500,000 for the building and $500,000 for the contents.
More flood insurance information can be found at www.floodsmart.gov.
Protect People from the Hazard
The City receives flood warnings from the National Weather Service via the Emergency Broadcast System and the NC Division of Emergency Management. The City’s Emergency Operations Center then works in conjunction with the Craven County Emergency Operations Center to analyze the information and broadcast warnings via local radio and television stations, social media, and the Code Red Alert Warning System.
Below are a few things that can be done to prepare yourself and your property to minimize the effects of a flood:
- Shut off gas, electricity, and water.
- Move furniture, clothing, and other valuables to the highest point possible.
- Secure loose objects and relocate vehicles, outdoor equipment, waste containers, and chemicals.
- Gather emergency supplies, essential medication, and immunization records.
- Avoid driving through flooded areas or around barricades, and only return after local authorities have announced that it is safe to do so.
The West New Bern Recreation Center at 1225 Pinetree Dr. is commonly used as a storm shelter. Craven County Emergency Management is the responsible agency for opening and operating additional shelters.
Protect Your Property from the Hazard
Ways to permanently retrofit a building include:
- Elevation – Raising the structure so that the lowest floor is above the flood level.
- Relocation – Moving the structure out of the floodplain to higher ground where it will not be exposed to flooding.
- Dry Floodproofing – Sealing the structure to prevent flood waters from entering (Non-residential only).
- Demolition – Tearing down the damaged structure and either rebuilding properly on the same property or buying or building elsewhere.
All development that takes place within a Special Flood Hazard Area requires a floodplain development permit. Development is defined as any man-made change to improved or unimproved real estate, including, but not limited to, buildings or other structures, mining, dredging, filling, grading, paving, excavation or drilling operations, or storage of equipment or materials. These permits will be issued by the City’s Development Services Department located at 303 First St. Illegal floodplain development may be reported via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (252) 639-2942.
New construction in the Special Flood Hazard Area shall abide by the following:
- All new residential construction shall have the reference level elevated no lower than Regulatory Flood Protection Elevation.
- New non-residential construction shall also have the reference level elevated above the Regulatory Flood Protection Elevation (RFPE), structures in an AE flood zone may be floodproofed to the RFPE in lieu of elevation.
- Flood openings are required in enclosures below the RFPE.
Substantial damage means damage of any origin sustained by a structure during any one-year period, whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before damaged condition would equal or exceed 50% of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred. See definition of substantial improvement. Substantial damage also means flood-related damage sustained by a structure on two separate occasions during a ten-year period for which the cost of repairs at the time of each such flood event, on the average, equals or exceeds 25% of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred. Substantial damage also means flood-related damage sustained by a structure on two separate occasions during a 10-year period for which the cost of repairs at the time of each such flood event, on the average, equals or exceeds 25% of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred.
Substantial improvement means any combination of repairs, reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, taking place during any one-year period for which the cost equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure before the "start of construction" of the improvement. This term includes structures which have incurred "substantial damage," regardless of the actual repair work performed. The term does not, however, include either:
- Any correction of existing violations of state or community health, sanitary, or safety code specifications which have been identified by the community code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions; or
- Any alteration of a historic structure, provided that the alteration will not preclude the structure's continued designation as a historic structure.
Please see below for additional information and resources:
- City of New Bern Emergency Operations Plan
- City of New Bern Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance
- City of New Bern Flood Zone Lookup Map
- City of New Bern Repetitive Loss Areas
- Coastal Evacuation Routes
- National Flood Insurance Program
- FEMA Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting
- FEMA Overview of Retrofitting Methods