WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Remembering Floyd: Storm made landfall 15 years ago

Posted September 16, 2014 6:02 a.m. EDT
Updated September 16, 2014 6:24 p.m. EDT

— Residents of eastern North Carolina have no trouble recalling the impacts from dozens of tropical systems, but for many, memories of Hurricane Floyd – which made landfall 15 years ago Tuesday – are hauntingly fresh.

The Category 2 storm made landfall near the mouth of the Cape Fear River during the early-morning hours on Sept. 16, 1999, packing winds of 105 mph.

Research teams recorded a 122 mph wind gust near Topsail Beach, and the storm surge peaked at about 10 feet in spots along the North Carolina coast.

Floyd's lasting impact would be realized in the next few days, however, as several inches of rain from the storm overflowed riverbanks, causing flood waters to cover roads and inundate entire communities.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport recorded 6.55 inches of rain, but some areas in the Coastal Plain saw nearly 20 inches, and dozens of communities were pummeled by more than 10 inches of rain. The timing of Floyd's arrival added to the chaos. The storm arrived less than two weeks after Tropical Storm Dennis dumped between 6 and 16 inches of rain across many of the same areas.

The Tar River, which runs by Rocky Mount, crested the day after Floyd's landfall at 33 feet – 18 feet above flood stage – putting 25 percent of the city under water. More than 500 people had to be rescued from trees, cars and homes.

When all was said and done, 52 people in North Carolina died from the Floyd – most of whom drowned as they tried to flee to higher ground.

The floods destroyed more than 8,000 homes, damaged an additional 67,000 and caused more than $6 billion in property damage and $1 billion in farm losses. About 3,000,000 chickens and turkeys and 30,000 hogs died.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency declared 66 counties natural disaster areas.

The name Floyd was retired by the World Meteorological Organization.