Durham woman blames city for flooded basement during Florence

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— A Durham woman blames the city for flooding in her home after Hurricane Florence that caused an estimated $30,000 in damage.

“I get a little nauseous. Just the feeling of being here is a little uncomfortable for me,” Alicia Ellis said of going into her basement, which was swamped during Florence. “It was about 5 feet high in here and a lot of mud and debris.”

The flooding ruined everything in her exercise room, laundry room and playroom for her 4-year-old daughter.

A state map shows her Inwood Drive home isn’t in a floodplain, and she says the flooding was caused by a poorly maintained city culvert near her home.

“It’s very, very overgrown,” Ellis said, adding that Durham should have widened the culvert as well to increase its capacity.

Jim Lindsley and other professional drainage experts agree with her.

“Our hands are tied to do any work within the bounds of her property because the flooding is backing up from an overwhelmed culvert system that, in my opinion, has become overwhelmed due to irresponsible development upstream,” said Lindsley, of Lindsley Waterproofing. “The culvert downstream should’ve been enlarged to accommodate the increased runoff from the development.”

But the city denies any liability for the flooding, saying it was caused by the hurricane.

“The City has found nothing within drainage systems (public or private) that would have contributed to the flooding of this property,” Durham spokeswoman Amy Blalock said in a statement. “The heavy rains caused every creek and river in western and northern Durham to flood from between 10-year to 100-year water surface elevations. Rainfall, and flooding in Mud Creek downstream, … caused the flooding at this property. All new development in the watershed was required to meet City standards for stormwater detention to the maximum extent allowable by law.”

Ellis said she has a meeting next week with Durham city staffers, where she hopes for a solution.

“Right now, I really just want the drainage problem fixed. I want them to maintain what’s already here and then determine if it’s actually big enough to handle the water … and if it’s not, do some improvements so it can handle it,” she said. “Working two jobs as a single mom, with a 4-year-old and dealing with a flood and having to deal with all the repairs and insurance, has been really hard.”