The rain started pounding early in Wilson on September 15, 1999, and it did not stop until parts of the city were drowning. The water swallowed cars and turned roofs into islands in a murky sea of filthy, rushing water.
Many Wilson residents who survived the first day had to flee on the second day. Creeks and streams started breaking out of their banks, destroying anything in the way.
By the time the water subsided, almost 750 homes and more than 200 business were gone. The clean-up would cost nearly $50 million. Flood Victims Start From Scratch, Try to Move OnWhile firefighter Randy Godwin was rescuing his neighbors after the storm, the floodwaters rose 6 feet in his home.
"Instead of waiting around, we chose to go ahead and start redoing the house shortly after the water receded," he says.
With the help of friends, family and volunteers, he was able to move back two days before Christmas. Today, it is hard to tell that the house was ever damaged.
"We give the Good Lord credit for where we were then and where we are now," Godwinsays. "We're making it very well."Buyout Program Moves Slowly For ManyBy February, money started pouring into Wilson. The federal government sent $11.5 million to initiate a buyout program. Another $13 million came from the state to help people move to higher ground.
Lanette Pridgen oversees the city'sFEMAbuyout program. Since February, 200 homes have been approved to be purchased.
"I can't explain," she says. "I'm just happy. It's been along time coming."
The first homes bought by the city were destroyed in August. The lots will never be built on again.
While Pridgen has seen many success stories, there are still many lives in limbo.
Shelby Evans has seen her neighbors move out one by one, thanks to the buyout. She is one of the 200 residents who have applications still pending. She is afraid there may be no way out for her family.
"It's sort of scary not knowing, because they say, 'Oh, yeah. You're going to be part of the buyout.' Then, all of a sudden, the buyout doesn't happen," she says. "Then what? What do you do?"
City leaders are still waiting to hear if FEMA will award another $6 million to continue the buyout program. That money would go toward purchasing another 200 homes that were flooded.
Wilson has also received grants from the state to start building new housing, including everything from apartments to subdivisions.