Crews pumping 20M gallons of water out of Princeville daily

Posted October 17, 2016 11:10 a.m. EDT

— More than a week after Hurricane Matthew, some communities are finally starting to see floodwaters recede. In Edgecombe County, crews are helping to speed that process along by pumping water out of Princeville.

"Today our plan of attack is to chase the water as it recedes," said Adam Mahaffey, the engineer in charge of the project. "There is no possible way to pump out water in side streets and neighborhoods, so we're just kind of chasing the water down."

The crew has been in Princeville since Saturday, and they're collecting up to 20 million gallons of water a day. "Right now we're staged at one of the lower points from topographical maps, so we're trying to stay as deep as we can for as long as we can," said Mahaffey. "We're averaging about to date about 40-some million gallons that we've been able to pump out."

Crews are using a total of six pumps - four smaller and two larger - to remove the water from the town's streets. 13-member crews are working full days in 12-hour shifts to improve the situation.

"Things last night went pretty well," said Mahaffey. "It receded a lot more than we anticipated, which is a good thing. We had been averaging about 18 inches to two feet a day, and then last night we almost doubled that."

It's hard work, but it's important work, and the crews are feeling the loss in the community. Mahaffey doesn't expect for people to be able to return to their homes for weeks.

"My first reaction was sadness because I felt for the people there," said Mahaffey. "I can't imagine moving my family out of a flood area and then having to come back to it later on."

Many roads in Princeville are experiencing heavy flooding, and, though progress is being made, it will be weeks before all the water is pumped out.

Officials are planning for major roads to open sooner.

"Water is the most powerful and amazing thing I've ever seen," said Mahaffey. "It can do so much - it gives us life and it takes it away. It's everything."