Princeville: 20 years after Hurricane Floyd

Local

20 years ago, Hurricane Floyd brought flood water to the small town of Princeville as they’d never seen before.

Princeville, NC after Hurricane Floyd.

9 On Your Side’s Dillon Huffman spoke to 99-year-old Ed Bridgers who remembers Floyd well.

WNCTs Dillon Huffman sits down with Ed Bridgers.

Bridgers said, “I was born during the flood of 1919.”

Bridgers says he’s been everywhere, from Seattle to Hong Kong and all points in between, including Germany in WWII.

But for him, he’s never seen anything like his hometown, Princeville, North Carolina in September 1999.

Bridgers said, “It was devastating because so many people lost so much.”

It was called the flood of the century; Hurricane Floyd brought floodwater into the small town of around 2000 people, the likes of which they’ve never seen.

Bridgers said, “Every house, 600 acres, some kind of repair had to be done.”

Princeville, NC after Hurricane Floyd.

Princeville Mayor Bobby Jones remembers it well.

WNCTs Dillon Huffman speaks to Princeville Mayor Bobby Jones.

Jones said, “I went to bed that night, woke up to a phone call and my sister said, ‘why are you still there?’”

Jones says he underestimated what was going to happen — and he stayed in Princeville until it was too late to get out.

He had to be rescued from his home by a helicopter.

Jones said, “But the positive side of it, everyone came to our rescue.”

Jones says he didn’t recognize his town after Hurricane Floyd.

Jones said, “It was devastating, it displaced everyone, all the buildings were torn down, but it was a blessing in disguise because, in 1999, the homes and buildings needed work anyway so we were able to get better homes built for people, we got a new town hall and a new school.”

It took some time but eventually, everything seemed good according to Jones, Princeville was back.

But in 2016, like déjà vu, came Hurricane Matthew and this town — still hasn’t recovered.

Jones said, “We make sure we stay upbeat, we know after the 2016 flood, it isn’t just us but other parts of the country have been hit by other things so we aren’t the only ones struggling.”

Princeville, NC in September 2019.

Jones says a lot of people have been helped since Matthew flooded this town once again but there’s still some in need and they’re waiting on emergency management.

But just like Jones, Bridgers says he knows this small eastern North Carolina town will come back, just like they did 20 years ago, after Hurricane Floyd.

Bridgers said, “I believe in miracles, I’m a churchman.”

After Hurricane Floyd officials built levees in town to try and keep the Tar River from flooding again, but as we know, it’s flooded several times since.

The Tar River in Princeville, NC.

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