Thursday, October 13, 2016

Historically significant town in rural N.C. may be swallowed by flooding from hurricane

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Residents of a historically important town North Carolina town that had to be rebuilt after being decimated by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 fear that history is repeating itself, Anne Blythe reports for The News & Observer. Chico Harlan, of The Washington Post, reports that flood water levels in Princeville, believed to be the first U.S. town settled by freed slaves, have reached within a foot of the dike that protects the town, and are climbing.

"Officials in Edgecombe County say they think Princeville will escape without major damage, but water began entering one section of the city Wednesday morning," Harlan writes. "The specter of a new disaster is particularly troubling because the town is only slightly better fortified against flooding than it was two decades ago."

"In the aftermath of Floyd, President Bill Clinton created a new council to draw up a plan to better protect the town, citing its 'unique historic and cultural importance,'" Harlan writes. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made a few modest and immediate improvements, but a more extensive construction plan—detailed in a December 2015 feasibility report—is still awaiting funding from Congress. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the dike protecting Princeville is no higher than it was in 1999, when the Tar River crested at 41.5 feet."

Dogs had to be rescued from flooded homes.
(AP photo by Chris Seward)
"After Floyd, up to 20 feet of water covered the town for 10 days. Coffins were dredged up from the soil and floated across the water like canoes," Harlan writes. "Nearly every home was destroyed. The town remained uninhabited for months, with people relocating to FEMA trailers, and residents briefly debated whether to accept a government offer to federalize the property and tear everything down. But they decided not to, and the population rebounded."

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