Eastern N.C. Still Struggles with Floyd
Posted September 18, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT
PINETOPS — While flood waters from Hurricane Floyd are rising in some areas, they're going down in others leaving death and destruction in their wake.
A state of emergency still exists in 28 eastern North Carolina counties, and state emergency management spokesman Tom Hegele says more than 147,000 people remain without power. And that number is likely to change as the flood waters recede upstream, causing problems for those downstream on the Neuse, Tar and Cape Fear rivers.
And, although some roads are open, that also will change as the flood waters move.
In Edgecombe County, rescuers found a group of people who tried to escape the floodwaters only to become victims themselves.
As of Sunday morning, major highways in the eastern part of the state still had severe problems. I-40 from Newton Grove to Wilmington, US 64 Nashville to Williamston, and I-95 from Petersburg, Virginia to Wilson are closed, and US 70 is passable but not ideal.
Also in Edgecombe, military helicopters delivered more than 400 evacuees to the safety of dry land. Rescuers have run more than 200 missions since Friday morning. Many evacuees were reluctant to leave their homes, despite warnings that it was time to go. The rapidly rising flood waters finally changed their minds.
"We thank God for that ride, that helicopter ride," one woman said after she was rescued. "Thank God for that safe trip!"
Most of the evacuees escaped with the few belongings they could carry from their homes. They're being bused to shelters in Edgecombe and Nash counties.
There have been at least 20 confirmed deaths in North Carolina, and that number could rise once the flood waters recede.
The Coast Guard is still rescuing people from homes along the Tar River.
Almost 1,000 people have been rescued from Pitt County homes.
Most of the county is covered in water; some rooftops are only visible from the air. More than 2,000 people are in emergency shelters.
Officials expect to rescue more people today. They say 70 percent of the county is without power.
Students at East Carolina University are also sitting in the dark, but there are no plans to evacuate the dorms. The university will be closed through next week.
Flood waters are expected rise another foot-and-a-half before they start to go down for good.
Classes at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington are canceled until roads are safe to travel.
School administrators say classes won't be held until emergency management officials say major roads to Wilmington are safe for travel.
University offices, however, will open at 8 a.m. Monday. All faculty and staff who are able to report work should resume their normal schedule Monday.
In Rocky Mount, floodwaters are starting to recede, and some residents are able to go back home.
In one new neighborhood, homes were a disaster inside. Residents say flood water was raged through their homes for two days. At times, it was 10 to 20 feet deep. Homeowners found their possessions covered with mud, and soaking wet. Many don't have flood insurance. Eighty-five percent of homes in the town have electricity now, but residents are advised to boil their water just to be safe.
In Wayne County, all you can see from the air is water. East of Goldsboro, the best way to get around is by boat. Inside the city, Route 70 is again blocked by flood waters. Auto World is more like water world. A mobile home park looks like a marina. It's cut off from main roads. A curfew is in effect for the entire county until next Saturday. The river is expected to crest on Wednesday at 15 feet above flood stage.
Farther east, in Lenoir County the scene is similar. Boats are the best way to get around Kinston. Residents are trying to help several neighborhoods that are submerged in flood waters. From the air, it appears that raw sewage is flowing from the beleagered Kinston sewage treatment plant.
Johnston County residents are watching the flood waters recede and hoping there isn't too much damage to their homes.
Some homes in Smithfield flooded when the Neuse River overflowed its banks. At other houses, the water just reached the front door, and homeowners hoped for the best. They won't know how much damage there is until the water goes down.
"We're hoping we aren't going to find anything because it's right at the edge of going in the house, but my mother next door is going to find a mess because there's a lot of water in her house," one resident said.
Water from the Neuse also rushed across roads, shutting down Highway 70 and 210. Eels, snakes, and fish are now calling the highway home.
There is a chance of showers down east on Tuesday, something no one wants to see. From staff and wire reports