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FEMA Buyout Of Floyd-Damaged Land Almost Complete

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ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — This spring, more than three and a half years after Hurricane Floyd, FEMA will complete its most expensive buyout in history. Many residents in the eastern part of the state are breathing a collective sigh or relief.

The land across the street from Harry Howell's Rocky Mount home will never look the same again.

"Before Floyd, there were nine houses on this side of the road," he said. "Seven of them were destroyed, hauled away as trash. Two people decided to rehabilitate and live in their houses."

The largest single-grant buyout in FEMA history, about $40 million worth, is almost complete. By the end of March, the final flooded home in the Rocky Mount phase of the buyout will be cleared away.

All of the new open spaces in Rocky Mount will stay that way. When the buyout is complete, FEMA will have bought and torn down more than 800 homes in the area. FEMA requires that no buildings be put up again on the flooded land.

"We have cleared a lot of the floodplain and so if another storm comes along, I won't say we won't have more devastation, but the areas that have been cleared. We won't have any problem," Assistant City Manager Charles Penny said.

Hurricane Floyd forever changed the eastern part of North Carolina, but Howell is proud of the way his neighbors handled it.

"We came through it pretty well. A lot of people did have a lot of injury in this time. I'm sorry to see our neighbors gone, but all of them found a place to go," he said.

Rocky Mount is also anxious for the next census. The most recent census that was taken right after Hurricane Floyd showed that about 2,000 people moved away. City officials believe many may have come back since then.

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