Local News

Weather service memorializes Hurricane Floyd's flooding

Posted May 27, 2009

— Disastrous flooding that followed Hurricane Floyd into North Carolina has been memorialized in one of the cities that caught the brunt of damage.

The National Weather Service unveiled a commemorative sign Wednesday at City Lake in Rocky Mount, where the water level crested at nearly 18 feet above flood stage on Sept. 17, 1999.

Floyd remembered before hurricane preparedness week Floyd remembered before hurricane preparedness week

The ceremony is part of the state's hurricane awareness week.

Hurricane season starts Monday, and Gov. Bev Perdue said last week that tropical storms can bring weather-related problems from the mountains to the coast.

Perdue reminded residents this year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Floyd, which killed 56 people in North Carolina, destroyed nearly 8,000 homes and caused more than $6 billion in damage.

About 4,000 of those homes were in Nash and Edgecombe County, including Gwendolyn Wigen's Rocky Mount home, which was under 4 feet of water

"Being in a flood changes your perspective on life," she said Wednesday. "It'll help keep everybody reminded of what can happen, what did happen and what we hope doesn't happen again."

Wigen had flood insurance and decided to rebuild her home. Five lots of former neighbors who opted for a federal buyout now sit vacant around her – a familiar sight on about 400 acres throughout the city.

In what was at the time the largest single-grant buyout in its history, the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid about $40 million for an estimated 800 homes in Rocky Mount.

They were demolished because FEMA requires that structures not be rebuilt in flood-prone lands.

Rocky Mount is planning to commemorate the actual 10-year anniversary of Floyd in September.

"It's important to remember these disasters, to think back to what occurred and what we can learn from these disasters, as we move forward," Jeff Orrock, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said Wednesday.


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  • hjandrj May 27, 2009

    We were here when Floyd hit. In all my years of going through storms such as these, I've never seen anything like this. The back part of our neighborhood was flooded. There were approximately 20 homes that were lost. I-95 was right behind our home and I-95 was covered. When you have entire city that is paralyzed from floods, it is major. To see KFC, Lowes, 301, Chicos, Tarrytown Mall, Winstead Avenue all flooded, it was a tear jerker. We lost the children's museum, we lost the park, the pool was flooded. We were stranded for a week waiting for the water to go down. I saw friends lose everything. I believe every part of RM was affected by this storm. It's been 10 years. I hope to never see another storm like it.

  • elhj83 May 27, 2009

    No racial or political issue was intended...I just think that Edgecombe County as a whole (mostly Princeville) was more affected (especially because most of the water in Rocky Mount went downstream to Edgecombe Co.).

    I do not live in Princeville or Rocky Mount, but I will say this, it was a TERRIBLE incident for eastern NC as a whole. My family farms and we lost millions in crops/equipment, not to mention homes, cars, etc.

    Sorry for any misinterpretation of my original comment.

  • hi_i_am_wade May 27, 2009

    Why is this a racial thing?

    First, unless the dam at the Tar River Reservoir was released, the dam would have busted. Thus, the nice homes by the Reservoir would still be dry but now the people in Rocky Mount and Nashville would have no water supply until the dam is repaired. The choice was to flood homes OR to flood homes and destroy the primary water source for 60,000 people and have to deal with a very expensive repair. No matter what, people downstream were going to get flooded. Why is that a racial or economic thing?

    I think people are jealous.

  • 3kidslady May 27, 2009

    I was working at Chico's in RM when the storm was on the way. I remember seeing the water from the Tar River coming into the bottom floor of Chico's around 7pm or so that night. We were scrambling trying to get home and the streets were already flooding so badly that it took me an hour to get from Chico's to the area where I lived near Golden East Mall. Ive never been so terrified in my life. There was no sleeping that night, nor was there much sleeping for a while after that. Luckily my home was spared, but I lived on Country Club Drive and couldnt get anywhere except the Food Lion at Beaver Pond, which was of course depleted! I cant believe its been 10 years, I hope I never see destruction of that magnitude ever again! Lets remember all the lives lost, not only in RM but in the surrounding areas and pray that we never have to experience the likes of it again!

  • Ladybug1 May 27, 2009

    elhj83 - The memorial is going up in Rocky Mount, most likely because we had more damage than anyone else. Flooding in Princeville had nothing at all to do with the release of any water. That's what happens when it rains for 2 weeks (Hurricane Dennis) and then you have another hurricane. If you live down stream you get flooded. Don't make this a racial thing. If it happens to be racial, blame it on Mother Nature, not Rocky Mount.

  • ECU4lyf May 27, 2009

    I was wanting to be the first one to comment on this because I knew it wouldn't take long for someone to ask why Princeville wasn't going to be the place for the memorial.
    Princeville suffered much, but I was living in Rocky Mount at that time, it was like being starnded on an island. You could only go so far in either direction because Rocky Mounts creeks were backed up so bad. I remember the IHOP had not been long openening up, and there it was, sitting under water.

  • childofNC May 27, 2009

    My grandmother, two great aunts, two aunts and two teen cousins had to be rescued by boat because although they were nowhere near bodies of water, the water rose quickly. They kept trying different routes (both by water and vehicle) to get my grandmother to a hospital or any facility that had oxygen). I remember not being able to go there for a couple of weeks to help salvage what we could from the attic and having to get my tetanus shot updated before going. Grandma didn't have flood insurance (wasn't anywhere near a flood zone) and that stupid tree wouldn't fall more than the 45 degrees and land on the house so it would be covered by insurance. My aunt was shocked and relieved when she discovered that she had flood insurance.

  • uncbabie May 27, 2009

    Oh hurricane Flood... The smell. God the smell. Every once in a while I can still smell it, and it makes me sick.

  • richardjackie May 27, 2009

    Amen, scooter 13! My parents and sister lived in Rocky Mount at the time, and I clearly remember hearing that same accusation from flood victims downstream about "water being released too quicly" to protect high dollar real estate along the Tar River Reservoir. It wasn't true. There had been simply too much rainfall in the eastern third of the state from another storm before Floyd. "Dennis the Menace" hung around off the NC coast for days and drifted inland and out again! Then, you had Floyd dumping as much as 18-21 inches of rain on already saturated ground just days later. What else could anyone expect? What did race or politics have to do with any of that?

  • Run_Forrest_Run May 27, 2009

    Flooded out during Floyd. Sat in closet during 83 Tornadoes as one went through the West Mount Community in Rocky Mount. Two of the most frightening times of my life....

    And I'm sick of hearing about Princeville. You'd think they were the only ones who flooded..... In Rocky Mount, you were flooded out or you were 3 blocks away from people who flooded out.