Local News

Weather service memorializes Hurricane Floyd's flooding

Posted May 27, 2009 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated May 27, 2009 6:51 p.m. EDT

— Disastrous flooding that followed Hurricane Floyd into North Carolina has been memorialized in one of the cities that caught the brunt of damage.

The National Weather Service unveiled a commemorative sign Wednesday at City Lake in Rocky Mount, where the water level crested at nearly 18 feet above flood stage on Sept. 17, 1999.

The ceremony is part of the state's hurricane awareness week.

Hurricane season starts Monday, and Gov. Bev Perdue said last week that tropical storms can bring weather-related problems from the mountains to the coast.

Perdue reminded residents this year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Floyd, which killed 56 people in North Carolina, destroyed nearly 8,000 homes and caused more than $6 billion in damage.

About 4,000 of those homes were in Nash and Edgecombe County, including Gwendolyn Wigen's Rocky Mount home, which was under 4 feet of water

"Being in a flood changes your perspective on life," she said Wednesday. "It'll help keep everybody reminded of what can happen, what did happen and what we hope doesn't happen again."

Wigen had flood insurance and decided to rebuild her home. Five lots of former neighbors who opted for a federal buyout now sit vacant around her – a familiar sight on about 400 acres throughout the city.

In what was at the time the largest single-grant buyout in its history, the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid about $40 million for an estimated 800 homes in Rocky Mount.

They were demolished because FEMA requires that structures not be rebuilt in flood-prone lands.

Rocky Mount is planning to commemorate the actual 10-year anniversary of Floyd in September.

"It's important to remember these disasters, to think back to what occurred and what we can learn from these disasters, as we move forward," Jeff Orrock, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said Wednesday.