Homeless population remains vulnerable after Fayetteville flooding

Posted October 9, 2016

— As the streams and creeks that feed the Cape Fear River filled and overflowed in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, many needed to be rescued from the rushing water.

"We had to get out," said Mark Edwards. "It started getting knee deep, so we had to evacuate, me and my wife and son. And then by the time we got out to the highway, it was all the way up to the front end of the truck. We made it out just in time before it got really, really rough."

Cumberland County on Sunday reported more than 250 swift water rescues and 700 people rescued from flood waters. Teams from New York, New Jersey and Ohio arrived Sunday morning to add their boats to the navy that was pulling people from stranded cars and flooded homes.

As the sun set, four Fayetteville residents who had been caught up in fast-moving water remained unaccounted for.

Aaron Sabb is originally from New Jersey and had never experienced a hurricane. He was on his bed at the Salvation Army when the water came in. He lost everything within a few minutes.

“When the rain came, I was asleep. They woke me up, they told us it was time to evacuate. I look at the flood and water was beneath me,” Sabb said. “It covered your feet at the time, but by the time we went back in there, got up out of there, it was knee high.”

The homeless population is vulnerable to weather every day. Two homeless men said they planned to weather the storm in tents under the Person Street Bridge. The Cape Fear River has since swallowed that campsite.

“I didn’t think I was going to be in a hurricane,” said Raymond Hart.

Hart lives in the Salvation Army Shelter and was one of about 30 men who took cover from the storm at a temporary shelter at Operation Inasmuch.

“And the outside was like a whole lake. I looked out the window, a whole lake. We had to get through all that water and I had to go in the kitchen and sit on the table in order to get out of the water,” Hart said.

Sunday night, the men were watching a movie and would sleep on cots in an area where breakfast is normally served. Operation Inasmuch Director Sue Byrd said it won’t be long before they won’t have to do that anymore.

‘In just a few months from now, the lodge will be open across the street and we won’t have to worry about nights like these because we’ll have everybody in,” Byrd said.

Most roads in Fayetteville were passable Sunday evening, but two major routes – Interstate 95 and U.S. Highway 301 – were closed because of water damage. Gillispie Street near Southern Avenue was closed because of overwash and erosion.

Drivers were asked to use U.S. Highway 401 from Lillington to Fayetteville.

Mayor Nat Robertson said there would be no curfew in Fayetteville Sunday night, but he asked people who didn't need to travel to stay off the roads to allow utility workers clear passage to do their jobs and restore power.


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