ELIZABETHTOWN — Flood damage from Hurricane Florence to the Elizabethtown Cemetery is still being investigated by the town and with assistance, the town manager says.
Eddie Madden said a plan of action is yet to be established because of the incomplete assessment.
“What is apparent is that the entire lower section of the cemetery has been compromised from the heavy rainfall and river flooding,” Madden said in a news release. “We are seeking the advice from experts, from regulatory agencies, and from other local governments who have experienced matters such as this.”
Florence made landfall Sept. 14, dumping 35.93 inches of rain on Elizabethtown as it stayed essentially parked between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach for about three days. The Cape Fear River rose to its highest flood level in 73 years.
The cemetery is atop an embankment that slopes to the river. It runs along East Queen Street to North Lower Street, where the back of the parcel for Four County Electric Corp. has a fence.
South of East Queen and more elevated is the Trinity United Methodist Church Cemetery, which was established in 1848. There does not appear to be damage to the church cemetery.
Damage to the town cemetery is visible on the south side of East Queen directly across the street from the library. A ridge runs from the grassy area and graves diagonally through the street, with a visible buckle, all the way to the Four County Electric fence. On the river side of the street, the ridge divides wider, creating a triangular section of sunken ground.
At some points, the difference in level along the highest boundary of the ridge is well more than regular stair steps. Some grave markers are displaced.
“We have received many phone calls from those who have loved ones buried in the town’s cemetery and we want you to know that we are taking the necessary steps to evaluate the damage to the hillside, come up with a plan of action, and restore things to normal,” Madden’s news release said. “We are taking this matter seriously and will hopefully have it resolved soon. Until then, we ask for your patience until we take the next steps.”
The town closed Queen Street. Future interments, the release said, would be determined on a case by case basis.
“It is obviously something we’re working on every day,” Mayor Sylvia Campbell said in an interview with the Bladen Journal.
She said the town is already looking at alternative property.
“We’ve got property down from the airport, on the bluff on the hill on the bypass,” she said. “We’re looking at that for expanding the cemetery.”
Campbell said all options would be on the table in finding a solution. The town hopes it will not have to do any relocations.
“I don’t know what the solution is going to be,” she said. “We’re going to do everything we can to stabilize the ones that are there now. And we’ll go from there.”
Pavement is buckled in the Elizabethtown Cemetery, caused by the flooding from Hurricane Florence.
Just across the street from the library, the Elizabethtown Cemetery ground has sinking spots caused by flooding from Hurricane Florence.
A wide area of the hillside in Elizabethtown Cemetery is damaged from the flooding of Hurricane Florence.
Hurricane Florence caused significant damage to Elizabethtown Cemetery, with ground sinking over a stretch of well over 50 yards.
At various points in Elizabethtown Cemetery, the sunken ground is better than two feet difference.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alanwooten19.