A Dec. 19 rainstorm flooded roads on Hypoluxo Island, including near McKinley Park around Southeast Atlantic Drive and Beach Curve Road, where the town put up a sign to warn drivers. Photo provided by Media Beverly
By Mary Thurwachter
After a heavy downpour early on Dec. 19, residents of Hypoluxo Island awakened to flooded garages and roads turned to rivers.
Town officials were up early to survey the area.
One of the first on the scene was Lantana Council member Mark Zeitler, who left his car at his mainland home, opting for his 1978 Dodge truck to better navigate swampy streets.
“I don’t remember seeing the water this high before,” said Zeitler, who grew up in Lantana. “I had a paper route on the island in the ’70s and I don’t remember anything like this.”
How deep was the water?
Ken Hilgendorf gauged it by walking on the street in front of his North Atlantic Drive home.
“I’m 6-4 and the water was up around my knees, so about 2 feet,” he said. The water crept up to the edge of his garage. “A little more rain and it would have been inside,” he said. His neighbor’s garage did flood.
The deluge wasn’t any less on South Atlantic Drive, where street signs alerted motorists to flooding and “no wake zones” and a few cars around Beach Curve Road near McKinley Park had to be towed. The island has been plagued with flooding for decades and the town has done extensive drain, sewer and road improvements over the years.
Islander Michelle Donahue said on Facebook: “Wow!! Crazy flooding in Hypoluxo Island today.”
Town Manager Brian Raducci sent a message to residents later in the day: “Apparently, we received four inches of rain between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. That in combination with high tide and a full moon has created the flooding issues that we are experiencing.
“All systems appear to be working properly at this time, but it will take some time for them to catch up. … Hopefully we won’t get any more rain today so we may dry out a little bit.”
Floodwaters were down after several hours on North Atlantic Drive, but took another day on South Atlantic. The damage was mostly the cleanup required for some garages, streets and lawns.
Lantana Operations Director Eddie Crockett weighed in via email to The Coastal Star: “There was a significant amount of flooding on Hypoluxo Island and in other parts of the town. We received about four inches of rain in a short period of time which overwhelmed the capacity of our stormwater infrastructure.
“The pumps on the island functioned at full capacity for about seven hours. We responded and continued those efforts throughout Sunday.”
Crockett said stormwater systems are maintained weekly and during and after each rain event. “The island experiences similar events of this magnitude several times a year.”
But some islanders thought this time was more severe.
“Have lived here 35 years and this is the worst I have seen, and I was here before the pumping system on Beach Curve/park was installed,” Gretel Andrea Babkie wrote on Facebook. “I believe the increased building of larger homes, loss of foliage and homes being built higher also contribute.”
Before his tour of the island, Zeitler visited the Sea Pines neighborhood, which is known to have flooding problems. That area fared much better, he said. “It drained down so fast. That made me happy.”