State officials say many lessons learned after Hurricane Floyd

Posted September 16, 2019 6:58 p.m. EDT

When Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina 20 years ago, the storm caused historic flooding in the eastern part of the state.

In all, 35 people died here, mostly from rising river water. But the lessons learned from that deadly storm have saved countless lives since then.

“I think Hurricane Floyd was a storm that really made us realize the impact and importance of inland flooding,” says Keith Acree, spokesman for North Carolina Emergency Management.

The bottom line, state leaders admit we were not prepared when Floyd stormed ashore.

As a result, North Carolina made significant investments to make sure the state could better predict where flooding will occur in the future and how to respond to that flooding. There are now 30 highly-trained swift-water rescue teams positioned across the state that can be deployed to known flooding spots before the storm hits.

In subsequent hurricanes like Matthew and Florence, that planning led to thousands of water rescues across the state. Acree says there’s no doubt the lessons learned from Floyd led to lives saved during recent storms.

“We were the leaders and still are the leaders in floodplain mapping,” adds Gary Thompson, the assistant director for risk management at North Carolina Emergency Management. He’s referring to the state’s Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network.

The program was also spawned from Hurricane Floyd. The system uses advanced river gauges and topography data to determine where and how high flooding will flow based on rainfall.

While Hurricane Floyd had a lasting impact on victims of the storm, it’s legacy is also the life-saving lessons to better protect all of us in the future, Acree said.

“I think people look back and see Floyd as the storm that really changed the way we prepare," Acree said.

Floyd also led to a new plan to care for pets, including a fleet of mobile shelters.