Environment

Near the Dan River and Belews Lake, the 311 Motor Speedway is in Duke Energy’s inundation zone. Now we know just how bad a flood can be

 

The 311 Speedway in Stokes County lies in a bowl near the Dan River and is in a designation inundation zone for releases upstream from Duke Energy’s Belews Creek Lake. (Photo courtesy: Michael Fulp)

On Saturday night, souped-up muscle cars — 602 Mods, Ucars and crates — were supposed to race 20 laps on the half-mile dirt track the 311 Motor Speedway in Stokes County. Last Tuesday, the track was better suited for racing by boat.

Policy Watch wrote about the 311 Motor Speedway last year in a story about Duke Energy’s inundation zone maps: areas that would be in danger should a coal ash impoundment or landfill breach. No such accident occurred in Stokes County during Hurricane Florence, but Duke Energy did have to release water from its Belews Lake dam to prevent even worse flooding, including in areas downstream. That water flowed into the Dan River, which runs 2 miles before ducking behind a tree line adjacent to the 311 Speedway.

When Michael Fulp went to sleep on Saturday, there was minor flooding at the track, but nothing to be concerned about. When he woke up on Sunday, though, he discovered the infield was under water, as was part of the backstretch straightaway. Water had climbed about halfway up the infield buildings. Fulp said he canceled all of the weekend’s races.

Although in the past the Dan River has broken its banks and flowed onto the speedway property, Fulp said it was not to this extent. Fulp blames the utility for the excessive flooding, and said he’s upset that no one notified him of the planned release. “I found out about it on Facebook,” he said. 

Duke Energy spokeswoman Kim Crawford said the company lowered the lake level by 2 feet on the Friday before the storm hit to accommodate the heavy rain, and then during and after the storm, it conducted a controlled release that contributed just 1 percent to the Dan River’s overall flow.

“This small controlled release is similar to how we normally operate during any heavy rainfall event,” Crawford said. By lowering the lake levels before the storm it, Duke Energy “reduced our water contributions to the Dan River.”

The marker at the top of the frame shows the location of 311 Motor Speedway. It is about 2 miles
to Belews Lake, which empties into the Dan River. This portion of river runs northeast, toward
Virginia, so the speedway is downstream of the lake.

It could cost Fulp upward of $10,000 to repair the speedway, he said. Guardrail, even used, can run more than $100 per foot.

What the flooding did confirm is that the Duke Energy’s inundation maps are correct: 311 Speedway lies in a vulnerable spot downstream — and nowhere you want to be during a disaster, natural or otherwise.

 

 

The 311 Motor Speedway in drier times. Although the track takes on some water in heavy rain, owner Michael Fulp said the flooding from Hurricane Florence was unprecedented. (File photo: Lisa Sorg)

 

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