No matter what else is happening in the world, the month of September always brings back some of Edgecombe County's most painful memories. It was 10 years ago this month--on September 16th, 1999--that Hurricane Floyd made landfall in North Carolina and changed the landscape of Eastern North Carolina forever.
U.S. Highway 64--September 1999
Hurricane Floyd became a rain-maker of epic proportions, dropping as many as 22 inches of rain in some communities. In and of itself, that's a staggering amount of rainfall, but it was made much worse by what had happened two weeks before. Hurricane Dennis dropped heavy rains into creeks and rivers--bringing them up to flood stage BEFORE Hurricane Floyd arrived. The result was the worst natural disaster in state history: a 500-year flood that killed more than 50 people and caused $6.5 billion in damage.
Edgecombe County endured some of Floyd's worst devastation. In the days immediately after the storm hit, 40 percent of Edgecombe County was under water. Hundreds of families were forced into shelters, many of whom had never seen flooding anywhere near their homes.
10 years later, the water is long gone, but the memories remain. There are some more permanent indications of the devastation Floyd caused in places like Tarboro and Rocky Mount, which participated in one of the largest buyouts in FEMA history. Hundreds of homes and apartment buildings were purchased at pre-flood market value, their owners able to move to new properties out of harm's way.
Things are much different now: the communities, after the buyouts, are more flood-resistant; weather forecasting technology has improved many times over; more emergency responders are trained in swift water rescue techniques.
Hurricane Floyd was one of the worst storm's eastern North Carolina has ever seen, but it's given the people of places like Edgecombe County a strength many communities don't have. As they weather the worst economic storm in generations, Edgecombe County's men and women are drawing on their ability to overcome, to keep moving forward in the face of struggle--a lesson they learned in that devastating storm 10 years ago this month.