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High Tides, Rising Sea Levels Worry Coastal NC Residents

Residents of Manteo, N.C., are bracing for a future of increased flooding. (Adobe Stock)
Residents of Manteo, N.C., are bracing for a future of increased flooding. (Adobe Stock)
January 13, 2020

MANTEO, N.C. -- Coastal towns braced for the first high tide of the year this past weekend, and many small-business owners say they have adapted to what is becoming the "new norm" of increased flooding during high tides and more frequent extreme weather due to climate change.

Jamie Anderson owns a bookstore in the town of Manteo on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. She said in her three decades of living on the Outer Banks, she's witnessed a significant uptick in the number of flooding events. For Anderson, this has meant a shift in the way she operates her business.

"We just don't take any chances anymore," Anderson said. "I just go in the store and I lift everything up at least above 12 inches and sometimes more than two feet."

While state and local governments are working to come up with solutions to mitigate the effects of worsening floods, Anderson said she believes making changes to the federal flood insurance program would help small coastal businesses stay open.

She said she's witnessed firsthand how rising sea levels are reshaping the surrounding environment.

"When I stand in my backyard and look across at what's a coastal refuge and marsh, there used to be two little points of land that duck out with some trees on them, and that's all water now," she said.

Anderson said continuing financial strain makes the future uncertain for small businesses in coastal tourist destinations.

"At what point does my flood insurance have to get to 'till I'm just like, I can't do this anymore?" She mused. "I mean, if it goes up another 30% next year, well, now I'm in the $3,000s for my flood insurance. Which is way more than I pay at home."

Anderson said she intends to stay, and noted there are others who choose the coastal life that provide critical services to the state's tourism economy. Visitors to the Outer Banks add more than $100 million annually to the state's income.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC