Faces from the Flood: Hurricane Floyd Remembered

Faces from the Flood: Hurricane Floyd Remembered

by Richard Moore, Jay Barnes

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Faces from the Flood: Hurricane Floyd Remembered

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A hurricane expert and the state's emergency management leader interview a wide selection of victims, heroes, mayors, emergency personnel, journalists, relief coordinators, and contractors who survived the storm and have begun to rebuild their homes and communities. The authors also assess N.C.'s response to Floyd and discuss what programs should be initiated, maintained, or strengthened to prepare for future storms.

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The University of North Carolina Press
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6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

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Faces from the Flood

Hurricane Floyd Remembered
By Richard Moore Jay Barnes

The University of North Carolina Press

Copyright © 2004 University of North Carolina Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8078-5533-1


The passage of Hurricane Floyd through eastern North Carolina in September 1999 produced an epic flood that ranks as the most widespread, destructive, and deadly natural disaster in North Carolina's history. Sixty-six counties were declared disaster areas, damage estimates exceeded $6 billion, and there were fifty-two reported fatalities. More than sixty thousand homes were flooded, and of these, many were hit rapidly and unexpectedly. Hundreds of desperate victims had to be rescued from rooftops and submerged vehicles. Floyd tested our state and its people like no other previous experience.

Faces from the Flood is a recollection of Hurricane Floyd told in the words of those who endured it. It features three dozen firsthand accounts from those who experienced the flood, including victims, volunteers, heroes, scientists, and government officials. Their stories cover dramatic rescues, sorrowful losses, and uplifting displays of spirit and courage.

We began with the hope of selecting stories that would serve as representative examples of the ways the state's residents encountered Floyd. But for every person whose tale appears here, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others whose experiences, though similar, were in their own way just as unique, just as deserving of being told. With this publication, then, we reflect on our state's greatest disaster through the lens of a few people's experiences, and in doing so, we hope to offer some appropriate and lasting tribute to what was many North Carolinians' finest hour.

We two authors had very different perspectives on Hurricane Floyd at the time it passed through the state. Jay, who was then director of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, had grown up on the coast, in Southport, hearing stories of great hurricanes like Hazel and learning respect for the power of those storms. His interest in hurricane history had led him to write two books on the subject (North Carolina's Hurricane History and Florida's Hurricane History). Richard was North Carolina's Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety. Appointed by Governor Hunt in 1995, he was our state's chief emergency management official, and in that capacity he oversaw the state's emergency response to the hurricane and the ensuing flood. Richard had his own unique experience with Floyd. Indeed, in one of the interviews presented later in this book he relates his dramatic encounter with the power of the storm, but it was his interactions with the people on the front lines-victims, heroes, relief workers, local officials-and his sense that their stories should not be forgotten that formed the real beginnings of this book.

To gather this collection of stories, we interviewed almost fifty individuals from seventeen counties around the state. With the help of various government agencies, private charities, businesses, and media, we developed a list of interview candidates in the spring of 2002 and conducted our interviews between May and October of that year, most of them in person, but a few by telephone. We posed a few standard questions to start the interview process, but mostly we just invited these folks to tell their stories. Each interview lasted about an hour, though many could have gone on much longer. For some, reliving the disaster was emotionally draining. Many found themselves fighting back tears as they spoke of the devastation in their communities and shared their experiences.

The recorded interviews were transcribed and edited, after which we selected the ones we thought provided the best overview of the hurricane and carefully condensed and reedited those for clarity. To the interviews we added some of the most striking photographs from the period, acquired from some sixteen different newspapers, wire services, government agencies, and individuals. (For the benefit of future researchers, the original interview recordings and transcripts will be archived in the Southern Historical Collection of the Wilson Library, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.)

Hurricane Floyd and the ensuing floods produced many heroes-the tireless, the brave, the generous, the compassionate-and yielded a bounty of awe-inspiring deeds. Faces from the Flood offers only a snapshot, a mere sampling of North Carolinians' many and varied personal experiences with the storm and its aftermath. It can serve as a scrapbook of memories and a history lesson for future generations of hurricane watchers. But we also hope it causes readers to pause and reflect on the consequences, good and bad, of large-scale natural disasters and their impact on life in the Tar Heel State.

Richard Moore Jay Barnes June 2003


Excerpted from Faces from the Flood by Richard Moore Jay Barnes Copyright © 2004 by University of North Carolina Press. Excerpted by permission.
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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
The editors generously illustrate the narratives with fifty-three photographs capturing the pathos, fear, generosity, and courage that accompanied Floyd and its aftermath, and many of these images are riveting. . . . Memorable and valuable.—North Carolina Historical Review

Reading about everyday heroes and the fine people who came to the aid of so many is inspiring. . . . The book reminds me that we can count on our neighbors in times of trouble, a welcome message in the 21st century.—Our State

Faces from the Flood rates an A+ from this career weather enthusiast. It provides excellent accounts of the years leading to the landfall of Hurricane Floyd and the giant magnitude of the meteorological flood event the storm caused in North Carolina. The personal stories of individuals caught in Floyd's wake are unique and captivating. They can only be known by talking to the individuals interviewed in this book or by reading this book. To not know of these stories is to not understand the personal tragedy inflicted by a flooding hurricane.—Steve Lyons, The Weather Channel

[The authors] have done an amazing job presenting three-dozen firsthand reports from victims, volunteers, scientists, heroes, and government officials. It is a riveting account of destruction, hope, and never giving up.—Kliatt

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