Time for a Kimberly solution

Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016

One man dead in the floodwaters that washed over the Kimberly area near Constant’s Wharf.

There was plenty of other damage around Suffolk as a result of the torrential rainfall that accompanied Hurricane Matthew’s grinding advance up the East Coast — a gaping sinkhole on Route 58, near the border of Suffolk and Southampton County is, perhaps the most visible lingering evidence of the storm’s passage.

But most of that damage will be repaired. Insurance, government loans and grants, and lots of hard work will eventually erase all but the memories of the storm. But neither time nor hard work nor insurance settlements will erase the harsh reality of that one irreplaceable loss.

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Derek Cason, 53, was on his way to work at the McDonald’s restaurant at the corner of North Main Street and Constance Road at about 5 a.m. Sunday. His family said he was a dedicated employee who did not want to be late, though they later learned the restaurant had been closed all day.

Attempting to cross the flooded road, Cason was apparently swept away by the surging Nansemond River. His body was found in a marshy inlet area behind the 800 block of Normandy Drive just after noon on Wednesday.

The frequent flooding of Kimberly is no longer simply a nuisance. It is a menace that causes untold environmental damage every time gas and oil spills into the river from a nearby gas station, and it has now resulted in the death of a man who, based on a press release from the city, probably didn’t understand the potential danger he faced when he stepped into the floodwaters.

If this flooding were an isolated incident, perhaps this terrible outcome could be considered a freak accident. Sadly, however, that’s not the case. The road floods during unusually high tides, to say nothing of tides exacerbated by saturated soils that cannot handle the addition of many inches of hurricane-induced rainfall.

Suffolk officials have long considered how to solve the problem. In the end, no option has been easy or inexpensive.

But now that it’s clear the Kimberly flooding is more than a simple nuisance — now that it’s obviously a matter of life and death — it’s time for the city to demand help from the commonwealth in solving the problem, even if the solution is hard and expensive.

Derek Cason deserved better. Suffolk deserves better.