Fayetteville Begins to Recover From Record Flooding In Matthew's Wake

Oct 10, 2016

The floor of Robert White's apartment is slick with water and a film of mud. The 67-year-old makes his way cautiously over the tile to where his nephew Kareem White is standing. He points out a faint line about two feet off the ground. It travels along the walls of the apartment like a giant bathtub ring.

"Right there…it was that high, from here to the floor all around the whole house," said Robert White of his apartment just north of downtown Fayetteville.

DVDs and other items are strewn across the wet floor, the bottom of his wooden furniture is warped, his couch and recliner are soaked, and there’s dank smell in the air.

Kareem White said he drove down from Hoke County as soon as he heard what had happened to his uncle’s home.

"Everything is wet," Kareen White said. "That’s what we’re trying to do now, get everything out of here, salvage what he can. The majority of it though is done for."

Hurricane Matthew tore up the Carolina coast this weekend dumping torrential rains across the state. Many communities have been devastated by flooding, including Cumberland County, one of the hardest-hit areas. Floodwaters there claimed five lives, along with homes and property.

Related: Matthew's Not Done Yet: Historic River Flooding On Its Way

Rescue teams have evacuated hundreds of people from their homes. White and the other residents of their housing complex were evacuated by boat Saturday evening. But before the boats arrived, White’s neighbor helped him trudge through the chest-deep water to higher ground.

Homes along Highway 401 in Bunnlevel were threatened as the nearby Upper Little River overflowed its banks on Sunday, October 9, 2016.
Credit Jess Clark / WUNC

Other residents had to make their own escapes, too.

Frank McLaughlin, his partner and 8 kids spent hours waiting on the second floor of their building as water continued to rise on the first level.

"My sons had to rescue people out of windows," McLaughlin said. "Couldn't get out of their apartments. We had people on oxygen machines over there. Could get out, couldn't get them out. Then the rescuers got there about 4 or five hours later, about the time we were about to go in the water but they made it there in time to get us out."

Now, McLaughlin and his family are staying at the Kiwanis Shelter in Fayetteville, sleeping on cots.

“We’ll stay at the shelter until we see what goes on tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll be out of work for a couple days while I get my family situated.”

McLaughlin said he doesn’t really know what’s going to happen to his family.
Uncertainty is the reigning sentiment for people whose homes have been inundated. And in areas downstream from major rainfall, some residents aren’t even certain the worst flooding is over.

A photo taken by Kareem White’s friend shows what the apartment complex looked like before the waters receded after Hurricane Matthew.
Credit Photo courtesy of Kareen White

The rain had stopped a few miles north in Bunnlevel Sunday afternoon, but floodwaters were still rising around a group of pre-fab homes along the highway.

Allison Griggs stood in knee deep water outside the home where her mother lives. Several sheds and other small buildings are almost completely submerged. In some areas, the water is much deeper and flowing quickly. It’s coming in from the Upper Little River, usually a quarter mile away when it’s within its banks.

“It was not like this at about 9 o’clock this morning. It was just right at that gate and since then, it’s come this far, and it’s coming in from that side, too,” Griggs said. “Coming from both directions. So we’re thinking they’re probably gonna meet in the middle.”

Grigg’s mother Linda Lowry said she thinks they’ll have to evacuate soon. But she’s most concerned about what the flood will mean for the pending sale of her house.

“We’re in the last minute of signing the papers and all,” Lowry said. “Should be happening in the next two weeks. So yeah, hopefully this one will be fine.”

Forecasters say many rivers will not reach their crest until later this week.

A church remains flooded on Monday, October 10, 2016 at the intersection of West Manchester and Bragg Blvd in Spring Lake.
Credit Jay Price / WUNC