With Makeshift Sand Bags, Apartment Dwellers Prepare For Florence

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Ten years ago, the Doral Apartments and the Cavalier Apartments in east Charlotte were flooded by Tropical Storm Fay – and some residents had to be dramatically rescued by boat.

Now, Doral residents — most of them newcomers — are preparing for floodwater from Hurricane Florence.

Some first-floor residents of the complex off Monroe Road moved valuables to countertops. Some people had placed sand bags at the foot of their patio doors. One woman couldn’t find sand bags, so she bought four bags of potting soil and kitty litter.

Preston Baldwin lives on the first floor with his fiancé. He also couldn’t find sand bags, so he was filling a 42-gallon demo bag with pebbles.

“Home Depot was all out of sand bags, so I’m improvising with a demo bag that’s made out of the same material,” Baldwin said. “I’m from the coast orignally, so I have a little bit of experience with some of these storms.”

Sicily Piazza said she’s getting her important possessions as high as possible.

“We’re moving everything into the kitchen and back room,” Piazza said. “We have a little attic space up there, so we’re putting everything — important stuff, pictures and things up there.”

In 2008, the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay pushed muddy floodwaters out of Briar Creek. It flooded the Cavalier Apartments on the north side of the creek, and the Doral Apartments on the south side.

Mecklenburg County bought and demolished the Cavalier Apartments, creating a floodplain. They also bought and demolished 128 units at the Doral Apartments, but about half of the complex’s multi-colored brick apartments are still standing.

Many Doral residents have lived there for only a few months and they have only heard stories about the 2008 flood, when the Charlotte Fire Department had to rescue residents by boat.

Since then, the apartment complex has built a cinder-block wall in hopes of keeping water out.

In the last twenty years, Mecklenburg County has bought and demolished 400 flood-prone houses, businesses and apartments.The county said it has turned those areas into 185 acres of undeveloped land, sometimes as parks.

But David Love, with Mecklenburg Storm Services, said it has been harder recently to get property owners to participate in the voluntary buyout program. The reason? It’s been ten years since the city’s last major flood, from Tropical Storm Fay.

“I’ve been involved with the buyout program for several years, and have seen declining participation as we have moved away from the last serious event in 2008,” Love said.