25 years of reporting in ENC: Remembering the worst hurricane I covered
KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) -When I first moved to eastern Carolina in 1997 hurricanes weren’t something I thought much about. I grew up in Pennsylvania and lived for a while in West Virginia so the extreme cold and snow were the types of severe weather I was accustomed to. That all changed when I moved here.
North Carolina has experienced 82 tropical systems in the 25 years I have lived here. Some haven’t amounted to much. Others have brought devastation, unlike anything the state has seen before.
For me, the worst hurricane I have covered was Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
In some places like Kinston, you can still see the effects. There are roads to nowhere where an occasional house, or at least part of it, still stands, hidden from the overgrown trees and brush, like part of a lost city.
They are the same streets I boated down after Floyd hit. The floodwaters are the very reason this community, and many others across eastern Carolina, are just a memory.
Roger Dail was the Emergency Management Director for Lenoir County back then. He said, “At that time we did as good as we could do with the resources we had and the information we had. We were not ready for the water we did end up getting.”
That’s because the amount of water was unlike anything eastern Carolina had ever seen.
Marvin Daugherty was WITN’s chief meteorologist at the time and recalled the unprecedented rain and flooding in the WITN documentary Flood of the Century, talking about some areas receiving well over 25 inches of rain.
Marvin grew up in eastern Carolina and covered many hurricanes at WITN in his 34 years at the station. He says Floyd was the worst. “And anyone who lived near or along low-lying areas of rivers really got hit the full brunt of it and it was nothing like I had ever seen before.”
I had only been at WITN two years when Hurricane Floyd hit and didn’t know what to expect from a hurricane. The devastation I was seeing daily from flooded homes, businesses, and environmental nightmares, was the same in virtually every community across the east. The sheer magnitude was unlike anything I had ever witnessed, or seen since.
Marvin says, “I remember back in 1999 with Floyd the helicopters going around and picking up people from their roofs and that was not a nice scene to watch. At least those people escaped.”
While some communities may be gone, a reminder of the devastation from Hurricane Floyd, their absence is also part of the legacy of the hurricane.
Dail says, “A lot of things changed from 99 because of Floyd.”
That included getting people out of harm’s way. Around 800 properties in Kinston and Lenoir County were bought out due to damage from Hurricanes Fran and Floyd. Dail says that helped lessen the impacts of hurricanes since.
“Because we had done all of that acquisition work in years prior, or mitigation work, were able to cut down on some of our losses and some of the homes damaged because we had moved people out.”
And Dail says the planning for a hurricane has improved because of Floyd. “We were able to garner resources a lot quicker and know exactly what resources we needed because of our prior experience.”
Today, a high water mark sign stands at the Neuseway Nature Park in Kinston as a reminder of what Hurricane Floyd did, but also, as a testament to the spirit and determination of the people of eastern Carolina to overcome such destruction and devastation, to learn from it, and to hopefully help protect future generations from a similar heartache.
Marvin says, “They called it the 100-year flood, the 500-year flood, who knows what it was, right, how many hundreds of years, decades you go before you see another one. Hopefully, there won’t be one quite that bad ever.”
Next month I’ll continue my look back at my 25 years of reporting at WITN with a behind the scenes look at the biggest interview I have conducted at WITN.
To watch and read my July anniversary report on my favorite places in ENC you can click here.
To watch my June anniversary report on the impact of CMN on lives and a hospital you can click here.
To watch and read my May anniversary report on the biggest mystery I have covered you can click here.
To watch and read my April anniversary report on working through and covering a pandemic you can click here.
To watch and read my March anniversary report on familiar faces and changes through the years you can click here.
To watch and read my February report on my most impactful story you can click here.
To watch and read my January report on my first story I ever covered you can click here.
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