Lakefront homeowners left to clean up flood mess

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comAugust 6, 2013 

— Brody Blackwell may be the only one pleased with what the water left last week along Lake Wylie’s shoreline.

He’s 2 years old and couldn’t be more excited by the hundreds of limbs and sticks, tires, coolers, flipflops, chunks of dock foam, bottles and other debris gathered on local properties because of flooding upstream.

Others, including his grandparents, weren’t quite as impressed.

“It’s just part of living here,” said Faye Blackwell, who lives where the main channel meets Beaverdam Creek.

The Blackwell beach looked like neighboring ones, the sand nearly invisible in places covered with trash or a large tree that will need to be removed. Most of it was natural debris, and will be stacked up and burned.

“You’ve got to cut it up or do a fire,” Blackwell said. “It’s about all you can do.”

On July 29, the Lake Wylie area saw a significant surge in floating debris caused by flooding in North Carolina, particularly the South Fork River. Boaters were urged to stay off the water.

“I suggest limiting boating for the next few days until the debris dissipates,” said Sgt. Brent Mabry with York County Sheriff’s Office lake enforcement. “It’s not safe.”

For lakefront homeowners, their work just started. As of mid-day July 30, next door to the Blackwells, Linda Cox’s property was spared of large debris, though nearby she’d seen plenty that would take a chainsaw to tackle. She also spent the day trying to identify plants floating by in bunches.

“There’s a huge floating island of debris,” Cox said.

What debris she could burn, Cox and her family dragged around back to small fire pit. Most of what ended up on her beach were beer bottles, tobacco tins, drink caps, plastic bottles and cigarette lighters.

“We just have been taking it a little at a time,” Cox said. “It’s nasty.”

Catherine Butler, spokesperson for Duke Energy, urged boaters, swimmers and residents along the lake to take caution with the influx of debris and “an enormous amount” of moving water. Duke manages the Catawba River and its lakes. As for cleaning up debris, Butler said the strategy is part effort and part nature.

“Natural debris will dissipate on its own over the next few weeks,” she said. “Some will float down river, some will become saturated and sink, and some will come to rest on the shoreline.”

The items Duke will remove include anything that impacts public safety.

“Duke Energy is focused on ensuring lake safety, and will secure and remove large floating hazards to navigation, such as loose docks, piers or watercraft,” Butler said. “We will also remove large debris that blocks boating access in the open water as resources allow.”

Tony Quinn, co-owner of Carolina Boat Club and Pier 49, said he’s been on Lake Wylie his whole life and can’t remember ever seeing so much debris. He closed the club for two days.

“Thankfully, it’s Monday, so hopefully it will clear up by the weekend,” he said on July 29.

Michael and Arleen Bradford of Steele Creek cut their day on the lake short just before noon saying “It’s a mess.”

“We just wanted to go fishing,” said Michael Bradford, adding he’s never seen anything like it in his more than a decade boating on Lake Wylie. “It looks like whole yards out there.”

Late last week, clean-up activities continued in places like River Hills. The community association there worked with residents to fill a truckload on one beach, while resident Mark Cloer dove in at the marina. Cloer is president of Waterline Marine Consultants and has done work with the marina. With nature gathering debris into coves by the waveful, Cloer said Thursday amid splash-ins that he felt the need to do his part.

“It’s just a question of caring,” he said. “Most of the work is already done.”

Duke Energy asks anyone seeing navigational hazards to call 800-443-5193.

Lake Wylie Pilot Editor Catherine Muccigrosso contributed to this story.

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