Exmore Residents Exasperated With Repeated Flooding

Exmore Ditch
A freshly dug ditch on Hadlock Road in Exmore does its job of keeping water off the adjacent road and properties in 2019. Photo by Stefanie Jackson.

By Stefanie Jackson – When Exmore residents from Monroe Avenue asked the Town Council Monday night for help with flooding issues caused by heavy rain and poor drainage, the advice they received was likely a bit unexpected.

“Flood insurance” was the answer supplied by Councilman G.W. Adkins. “We have the best rates on the Eastern Shore,” he said.

Connie Simpson was the first Monroe Avenue resident to state her case before the Town Council.

After heavy rain, her property is always flooded and the water has severely damaged her home underneath, she said.

“I can’t deal with it. Every time I go out to my door, I have to walk in a puddle of water … I’m soaked. I shouldn’t have to do that,” Simpson said.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is responsible for maintaining drainage ditches on public roads, but that task is rarely prioritized and ditches often fill up with debris and trash for years before they’re cleaned or dug out.

Simpson suggested the town should take over cleaning the ditches, but Councilman Bradley Doughty answered, “No, the town’s not going to take it over. It’s the state’s job.” Other town officials agreed.

Simpson said she has spoken to a lawyer, and she asserted that something should be done about the flooding because her foundation has been “ruined.”

Adkins told his own story about flooding at his Exmore home and said that two years ago after a heavy rain, his basement was filled with four to five feet of water, in which his washing machine was floating and his furnace was immersed.

But he had flood insurance that covered all the damage after he paid a $500 deductible, Adkins said.

A six-month waiting period must pass before a new owner of flood insurance may make a claim, but the premium is inexpensive, he noted.

“I feel your pain,” said Adkins, who has had problems with flooding in Exmore as long as he’s lived there – more than 40 years.

He later advised Simpson that after she gets flood insurance and the six-month waiting period is over, she should call the insurance company and as much as $15,000 could be spent for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to raise the house and protect it from further water damage.

Purchasing flood insurance is “one thing that you can do tomorrow,” Adkins said.

Director of Utilities Taylor Dukes explained Simpson’s property is particularly subject to flooding because there is no pipe under the road to allow water to flow across.

Exmore cannot install the pipe because the town does not own the road; it’s the property of VDOT, which has not responded to the town’s previous requests for road work, Dukes said.

Deborah Kirby, also of Monroe Avenue and Simpson’s neighbor, wrote to the town council about the flooding issue, and Adkins read her written comments into the record.

Kirby is particularly concerned about the the drainage ditches because she is 65, disabled, and depends on her neighbors and family to help her when her property floods.

“I’m in it with you guys,” Adkins told Simpson. “And the public works and everybody, they’re going … to make the best of a bad situation.”

Christina Sanderlin, a home healthcare worker who has clients in Exmore, asked if a letter could be sent to residents notifying them of the situation so they all could complain to VDOT and “maybe the squeaky wheel will get some oil.”

After heavy rain on two different occasions, her vehicle got stuck in a client’s driveway, she said.

Sanderlin said she was willing to sign a petition or help out in any other way possible to persuade VDOT to clean the ditches.

Adkins thanked the speakers for their input and said, “The town wants to help everybody if you’ve got a problem. Come see us.”

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