As we drove south from Michigan we saw reports of Hurricane Matthew forming in the Caribbean. We arrived at the Holly Point Campground on Tuesday, October 4th to serve as Camp Hosts. Ranger Dave Mumford (our boss) stopped by to give us our keys and go over any changes since the last time we were here. He said they were closely watching the development of Matthew and would let us know if they had to close the campground, and if they did we would have to evacuate.
By Thursday we were starting to get some rain, although it looked like North Carolina would be spared as the track was forecast to turn east into the Atlantic Ocean. We started to get some moderate rain on Friday from another weather system. By Saturday morning it was raining hard! While the treetops were swinging back and forth in 10-20 foot arcs, we experienced only light winds at ground level. We weren’t too concerned about families that were in trailers or motor homes, but there was one family camped in a tent in one of our lowest sites that I checked on throughout the storm. Fortunately they stayed dry but they must not have had too much fun being cooped up in a tent for the weekend.
By Saturday afternoon the area around our trailer was flooded with 2-3 inches of water and we had been “hunkered down” watching the 24-hour weather coverage. Our campground is on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood damage reduction project. The Falls Lake Dam was built to reduce the downstream damage from flooding on the Neuse River. As we walked around the campground we could see the water level rising on Falls Lake as the dam held the storm waters back. By the end of the storm it had completely covered both swimming beaches and the boat launch. There were several campsites on the shore that were also flooded. The Rangers had to move one motor home out of a site as the water was rising higher into their site.
Finally the rain stopped early Sunday morning. We were so glad to see the sun shining. I had never been in a storm with continuous rain for that long!
There were still warnings not to drive in certain areas and to never drive through standing water as you never know how deep the water is and what damage may have been done to the submerged road. It didn’t take long before we realized how lucky we were. Many towns downstream from us, such as Lumberton, Kinston, Tarboro, and Princeton, were totally underwater. It wasn’t until yesterday, October 18th, that the rivers started to withdraw to their original banks.
Being from the Midwest, I am used to tornadoes where the storm comes through and the next day people start making repairs. Here, the inland flooding will keep people out of their homes for weeks or more, some maybe a year before they have rebuilt. The poor town of Princeton was destroyed by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, was rebuilt and now has been destroyed again. How would you like to go through two Hundred Year Floods in seven years?
Fortunately we have seen sunny skies since October 9th and there are only slight chances of rain in the forecast giving people good weather for the recovery to begin.