Residents, officials meet after Neck District floods

Submitted to Dorchester Banner/John Sandkuhler
This photo shows the corner of Cook’s Point Road and Twin Point Road on Oct. 12, after an exceptionally high tide flooded the area. While one person chose to drive his truck, another turned to his kayak as a way to travel.

NECK DISTRICT — Days after the highest tides in years cut off access to many homes along Twin Point Cove, about 12 miles west of Cambridge, residents sat down with County officials to discuss ongoing efforts to get state and federal help to combat future flooding and shoreline erosion.

“This is a problem that won’t go away. We’re working on coastal resiliency and flooding issues so you can still get to your houses,” Stephen Garvin, planner with Dorchester County Emergency Management, told the gathering Oct. 24 at the Neck District Volunteer Fire Company station.

Some weeks earlier, County officials had scheduled the Twin Point Cove community meeting for Oct. 25 to discuss erosion and flooding, which resident John Sandkuhler brought to their attention more than a year ago. But coincidentally, on Oct. 11, 12 and 16, unusually high tides repeatedly put Cook’s Point Road – the only route to Twin Point Cove Road – under at least a foot of water in places.

Residents trying to reach home by car had to park at the fire station, which sits on higher ground, and telephone relatives and friends with trucks to ferry them through the water.

The experience illustrated the concerns which prompted Mr. Sandkuhler to meet with county and state officials and Senator Addie Eckardt last summer.

Tides wash over Cook’s Point Road and into some yards a few times each year and have done so for as long as anyone can remember. But this time the water over the road was unusually deep. Some residents said they thought it was the worst flooding they’d seen since Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

Mr. Garvin urged the several dozen residents attending the meeting to email him their details and pictures of flooding – not only from this October — by Nov. 1. “The more homes we have, the more chance we have to get funding,” he said. The county’s deadline for submitting a grant application to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency is Nov. 15.

Information required for an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency includes: Property owners’ names, the address of their property, property map, parcel and lot number, NFIP (flood insurance) policy numbers, property tax ID and photos of flooded areas.

Data should go to sgarvin@docogonet.com. Mr. Garvin’s work phone number is: 410-228-1818.

A week ago on Oct. 11, and then again on Oct. 12 and Oct. 16, the tides’ height exceeded the National Weather Service’s forecasts by about half a foot and caused the second worst flooding since Super-storm Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Irene in 2011, Mr. Garvin told the meeting, co-chaired by Assistant Finance Director Cindy Smith.

The tides put a long stretch of Cook’s Point Road under water deep enough to prevent the average car from driving through it safely. Ripples in the water made it difficult to see the yellow line down the center.

On at least one day, tidewater flooded parts of Twin Point Cove Road, as well. In some flooded yards, this writer and others saw minnows splashing around. When the water receded, some residents had the surrealistic experience of seeing jellyfish stranded on their lawns.

“Even if you don’t have damage, you’re impacted by the flooding because you can’t get to your homes,” Mr. Garvin told the meeting, “We’re looking ahead at what we can do to the shoreline. We’d rather see…(funds) going to a community than to individual property owners.”

He said the meeting was “just the first step to get a grant” of about $50,000 to do a study of the problems and solutions. But “it’s going to take several years to figure out the problem,” he added, “What we’re trying to do here is a long-term solution over the next 30 years.”

However, the immediate concern on most attendees’ minds, judging from their questions, was Cook’s Point Road, which runs parallel to a narrow shoreline bearing clear signs of erosion.
The best way to get action to protect the road, the officials said, was to contact Dorchester County Manager Keith Adkins, who is acting Director of Public Works, at 410-228-1700. Residents should also attend County Council meetings and demand action. “You gotta ask. People come and ask (for things) all the time and they put it in the budget,” Mr. Garvin said.

Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, who also attended the meeting, said residents had to be “loud about it.” Ms. Smith urged them: “Tell your elected officials, it’s up to you as citizens.”

The Dorchester County Emergency Management Agency is applying for grant funding from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency for a study of shoreline erosion problems in the Twin Point Cove neighborhood, including the flooding of Cook’s Point Road, the flyer announcing Thursday’s meeting said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will also be involved.

Why were the tides so high in mid-October? On Oct. 11, subtropical storm Melissa, the 13th named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, was swirling off the northeastern U.S. coast, packing sustained winds of 50 mph.

The storm created “stacking tides,” in which wind blowing toward land slows down the water heading back out to sea during a low tide, then pours more water on top. In addition, the moon was full on the weekend of Oct. 12-13. Tides are always higher during a full moon.

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