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The sun will shine again

Flood watch….flood warning…gusty winds….100 percent chance of rain; those weather warnings, along with others, have been a part of the local forecast now for two solid weeks.

While we dodged the brunt of the devastating blow felt by those down in South Carolina where floodwaters are at historic levels thanks to all the tropical moisture funneling onshore from Hurricane Joaquin, the Roanoke-Chowan area hasn’t bathed in sunshine since the weekend of Sept. 19-20. That was well over two weeks ago.

I don’t know about you, but my soul feels like a sopping wet bath cloth, it needs to be wrung out, hung on a line and allowed to bask in the bright sun. And if you’re like me, your disposition is usually a reflection of your soul. Mine has been far from sunny, more like a heavy sponge for the past few weeks.

To help brighten the gloom, I’ve found myself completely absorbed in watching TV shows, live or taped, filmed in sunny spots. Let’s just say I’ve watched far more than my fair share of Hawaii Five-O reruns for the past 10-to-12 days; so much to the point where I’ll emerge from a deep sleep at night, abruptly sit up in bed and say, “Book ‘em Danno.”

As I sat and watched the horrific events unfold across South Carolina this past weekend where lives were lost and tens of thousands forced to seek higher ground due to massive flooding, my mind drifted back to September of 1999 and a similar situation here in eastern North Carolina.

We tracked him long before Floyd made landfall at Cape Fear, packing 105 mph winds and gusts up to 130 mph. It was a massive storm in width, measuring 580 miles. It spawned several tornadoes, including one in Bertie County.

But it wasn’t the howling winds of Floyd that proved as its most destructive force; rather it was the non-stop rain.

After ensuring my wife and child were safe and secure on higher ground at a family member’s sturdy home, I made my way to Winton and spent the night – on-duty with camera and notebook at hand – at the office of Hertford County Emergency Management in Winton. By the time I arrived it was already raining to the tune of two inches per hour.

That was a long, sleepless night and the same (no sleep) followed the next day. When the rescue trucks rolled out for an endless string of calls for help, I accompanied Charles Jones, then the county’s Emergency Management Director. There’s not enough room in this column to list each and every harrowing experience of that night and the ensuing days…the latter taking us down a path of added misery as more suffered as the area’s creeks and rivers rose to historic flood levels. The stories I penned from that weather event were tough to write as raw emotion engulfed my soul, watching our citizens…some I personally knew….lose everything they had except the clothes on their back.

And, believe it or not, we were the fortunate ones. Just a bit to our south, the usually tranquil Tar River overflowed its banks to the tune of 22.5 feet above flood stage. It completely washed out the tiny town of Princeville, located just across the river from Tarboro. Major flooding occurred all along the Tar River, to include Rocky Mount and Greenville, as well as on the Neuse River at Goldsboro and Kinston.

What added to our misery at that moment in time was our soil was already super saturated thanks to roughly 7-10 inches of rain that fell less than two weeks prior to Floyd’s arrival. The culprit there was Hurricane Dennis that flirted with our coast. Then Floyd combined its energy with another coastal low pressure system….much like we’ve seen over the past few weeks.

Back then it felt like it didn’t dry out until Thanksgiving. My soul can’t take that long to recover this time around.

God bless and protect our neighbors down in South Carolina. Hopefully the sun is shining as we all read these words and we’ll see a long succession of brighter days to come.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207. 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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