Stilts not enough to keep floodwaters out of Sampson homes

Posted October 12, 2016 5:03 p.m. EDT
Updated October 12, 2016 5:55 p.m. EDT

— As Sampson County officials wait for the Federal Emergency Management Agency approve disaster recovery funds for the county, residents are coping with flooded homes and washed-out streets.

The winding Black River has taken over the southern reaches of the county, where accessing neighborhoods near Harrells requires a boat.

Like many nearby residents, Danny Baldwin's home in the Mossy Log neighborhood sits on stilts 7 feet above the ground. Still, flooding from Hurricane Matthew dumped about a foot of water inside.

"Right now, we’re just taking it one day at a time. That’s really all you can do," said Baldwin's wife, Juanita. "You can’t try to do everything all at one time. You get just so overwhelmed. You’ve got to have the grieving process. Even though we’re joking and laughing, we’re going through the grieving process."

The couple also was flooded out 17 years ago after Hurricane Floyd, but they said they love living along the river too much to leave.

"When you’re in Raleigh or somewhere else, you don’t even know your neighbor. We know everybody down here," Danny Baldwin said.

"The river is so peaceful, it's like being close to God," Juanita Baldwin said. "We can handle it because we've all stuck together. That's the most important thing."

The residents of Mossy Log have endured many of life's storms.

Ernestine Hall, for example, recently fought breast cancer. Another neighbor is in the hospital with pneumonia while his house is underwater.

"I've lost everything," Debbie Sumner said, even though she hasn't been back to see the damage to her home. "We pray. That’s all we can do."

Several neighbors are now staying in campers along N.C. Highway 41 next to a farm field, occasionally making runs into Garland to pick up food. Many of them don't have flood insurance because, they say, they lost it after Floyd and other previous floods, which is why Sampson County officials hope FEMA will declare the county a disaster area.

"It’s about sticking together and fighting through it together," Juanita Baldwin said.

"We’re laughing through it," Sumner said. "We all cry together."