Along Tar River, residents wait, watch as water rises

Posted October 10, 2016 5:02 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:04 p.m. EDT

— Along the Tar River, memories of Hurricane Floyd are fresh. In 1999, the entire Princeville community flooded. It was that memory that informed the mandatory evacuation order issued Sunday night.

For now, hundreds of people forced from their homes can only wait to see if Hurricane Matthew will do the same or if they can stay high and dry.

The towns of Princeville and Dunbar were under mandatory evacuations Monday night.

"We went through Princeville and evacuated my momma and my cousins and we finally got them out safely," said Princeville resident Eddie Pettaway.

The Tar River is expected to crest at 35 feet Tuesday morning, two feet shy of the dam's 37-foot capacity.

Princeville inundation forecast

"I just hope that the dike holds up, because if the dike breaks, and it could, then those people could have a lot of problems," said Ricky Thompson.

The dam that failed in Hurricane Floyd has been rebuilt and reinforced.

"I feel a little upset," said Bettie Walston, "but I know that I've been through it before, and I know that God is good. He was with us then, he's with us now."

Woodie Walston put his faith in the same place.

"It's in God's hands," he said. "(I'm) a little concerned, because this is the second time around. In 1999, we lost everything but our lives, and this is round two."

A bridge overlooking the Tar River became a meeting spot Monday as residents wanted to see what the river would do for themselves.

"This is very high. It's been this high before, but this is extremely high," said Bryan Mayo of Tarboro.

Thompson pointed to the painted line outside his Tarboro office, a visible reminder of Floyd.

"This is the high-water mark right here," he said.

He's hoping history does not repeat this week. Like many along the Tar River, all he can do is wait, hope and pray that this time will be different.

"We are praying for the folks in Princeville," Thompson said.

With reminders of Floyd present, hundreds of people didn't hesitate to hunker down in temporary shelters. Most people said they absolutely feel as though city and county leaders made the right call.

Residents said precaution now could mean fewer regrets later.

"I started packing yesterday. My kids thought I was crazy, but now I feel good. I hae a truck full of stuff because you never know," said Tarboro resident Starsheda Pettaway.