Princeville trembles as Irene approaches

Posted August 26, 2011 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2011 6:39 p.m. EDT

— As Hurricane Irene trudged toward the North Carolina coast Friday, residents of Princeville watched and worried, recalling how another massive storm almost wiped their town off the map.

Rain from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 sent the nearby Tar River over its banks and left the Edgecombe County town underwater for 10 days.

"It was terrible. It was really bad, and I would not wish that on my worst enemy," resident Kiara Tillerey said Friday.

"I am very concerned. I stay right down the street myself, and I am scared, but right now I'm just trying to see to the town so it won't be flooded," said town worker Camillus Battle, who was clearing debris from storm drains in advance of Irene.

Most Princeville residents decided to rebuild after Floyd instead of taking a federal buyout and moving away. The Army Corps of Engineers has built a higher earthen dike to get the town out of the 100-year flood plain.

Still, the town's volunteer fire department was checking its gear Friday and planned to be on standby throughout the storm.

"The thing we are concerned about most is the flooding and the amount of rain we are going to receive," firefighter Richard Smith said.

One major advantage Princeville has as it faces Irene is that the Tar River level is much lower than it was before Floyd hit.

Henry Odeh, who lost his store to Floyd, said he hopes Princeville never sees flooding close to that again. If he does with Irene, he said, he won't stick around for another hurricane.

"Can't do anything about it. If it's coming, it's coming," Odeh said.