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Living With Floyd: I Year Later
On Sept. 16,1999,
Carolina and was
gone in hours. But
those in its path
are still picking up
ECU Community Reflects on Year of Recovery
By Lucas Fenske
Assistant State & National Editor
; GREENVILLE - Time has masked
tl)e damage Hurricane Floyd inflicted
op East Carolina University a year ago
The parking lot where an ECU stu
dent, 18-year-old Aaron Childe of
Leland, drowned while swimming in
floodwaters is now dry.
Campus sidewalks covered with
leaves after the storm were cleared long
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Greenville's Tar River Estates' swimming pool is filled with schools
of fish, algae and miscellaneous debris, a year after Hurricane Floyd.
Floyd Creates Emotional Turmoil
For Some UNC Students, Families
By Kim Minugh
Students recovered from hurricane parties.
Administrators returned to their offices. The
University’s daily grind quickly resumed.
The relatively mild storm that hit Chapel Hill
on the morning of Sept. 16,1999, didn’t prepare
the UNC community for the nightmare that
Hurricane Floyd would leave in its wake else
where - least of all the students whose families in
eastern North Carolina were to endure coundess
trials for months to come.
Sophomore Erin Cobum said her hometown
of Windsor, located in northeastern North
Carolina near the Pamlico Sound, prepared for
the worst without ever imagining what that
would really entail.
“Everyone was buying canned food and
water; grocery stores were out of food,” she said.
“It just hit us harder than we thought it would.
Nothing of this sort has ever happened.”
And as Floyd’s imminent danger passed from
the minds of many UNC students, Cobum still
had her family to worry about
“I was so scared, and the next day (after Floyd
hit Chapel Hill) we were back at school- and my
parents were still at home,” she said.
Cobum’s own home sustained little damage in
comparison to Windsor’s downtown area, which
felt the full destructive brunt of Floyd’s floodwa
She said all of her tight-knit community felt
the storm’s repercussions.
“It bothered me how everyone was like, ‘lt’s
not going to hit us,’ and my family was at home
preparing for the worst.”
And Cobum wasn’t alone. There were other
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ago. Chunks of road and sidewalk tom
from the ground by the rampaging flood
waters have been repaired.
But the hurricane still lingers in the
memory of many students who were
forced to carry their soggy belongings
from mud-covered apartments.
Greenville, located on the Tar River,
was one of several N.C. cities hit hard by
the flood. ECU classes were canceled
for nine days, the longest in recent mem
ory. The school suffered more than $4
million in physical damages.
students like her who struggled under the weight
of the emotional burden Floyd forced them to
shoulder. Others feared the havoc Floyd wreaked
on their families’ finances.
Some of those students received aid from the
University in the form of donations and contri
The Office of the Dean of Students collected
food, clothes and other gifts for the family of one
work-study student in the office.
Sylvia White, an employee there, said the stu
dent’s struggle was visible.
“She just felt so guilty for being here. She felt
like she needed to be there helping, but it was
better for her family for her to be here,” she said.
LaEula Joyner, who works with White, said
delivering the collected items to the family was
a meaningful yet emotional experience.
Joyner expected laughter, excitement and
happiness upon her arrival with the donations.
But the destruction Floyd left in its wake hum
bled families across the state - leaving them
financially bound and emotionally broken.
“I’ll never forget the look on (the student’s) sis
ter’s face. She just looked so sad, and so remote. I
got back to my car and cried and cried,” she said.
The work-study student finished the semester
but then went home to help her family rebuild
their lives. She was able to return to UNC in
Dean of Students Melissa Exum said
University officials made every effort to allow
those students affected by the hurricane to con
tinue at UNC, regardless of their financial situa
tion at home.
“We made sure that whatever students (decid
ed to do) they weren’t penalized academically or
Hurricane Floyd: Sept. 16,1999
An apartment is in ruins (above) just days after floodwaters receded at Tar River Estates
in Greenville. One year later, signs warn residents to stay out of the complex's units (right).
ECU sophomore Michael Rowcliff of
Chapel Hill said he remained on cam
pus during Floyd until he was forced to
evacuate. “No one wanted to go to sleep
(that night),” Rowcliff said. “Everyone
wanted to see what would happen.”
He said his residence hall lost power
about 3 a.m. when the hurricane’s eye
was overhead, setting off the fire alarm.
“We were standing outside in the rain
and wind,” Rowcliff said. “Tree branch
es were flying around. It was total chaos.”
He said Floyd itself was not a major
problem for students, but the subsequent
floods were devastating and turned his
residence hall, located at the top of a hill,
into an island.
“There was no way on or off except
by boat,” Rowcliff said. “The commuter
parking lot was a lake. All you could see
was a sign that said ‘Caution: Lot Prone
to Flood’ sticking out of the water.”
He said the effects of Floyd -and the
smell of mildew in some classrooms -
lingered for the rest of fall semester.
Rowcliff said possessions and apart
ments damaged by the flooding, com
bined with the loss of vacation days,
made it hard for most students to devote
the necessary attention to their studies.
“No one was motivated,” he said.
“More students were on academic pro
bation than could fit in the auditorium.”
Despite the academic, emotional and
physical effects of the storm on campus,
the damage wrought by Floyd is more
visible in the city of Greenville.
She said it was the
University’s obligation to
spearhead relief efforts
from the area.
“We are a compassion
ate University and a com
Exum said. “We have an
obligation to the state and
all its people. I really think
the University rose to the
She said students in
need of aid could sense the
sincerity that permeated
UNC’s efforts. “It made
me proud to work at
But UNC’s outreach
included more than finan
cial support and labor.
UNC Counseling and
offered students an outlet
for their emotions while
dealing with Floyd’s after
Although CPS Director John Edgerly said
only a few students sought help from University
psychologists, he said Floyd had taken its toll on
those he saw.
“Those students were usually very upset,”
Edgerly said. “It was primarily an issue of anxi
ety and worrying because they couldn’t get back
to (their families).”
He said students showed symptoms of post-trau
matic stress disorder, exhibiting denial or depres
sion and sometimes complaining of insomnia
Faded police caution tape fitters the
ground around Darryl’s, a restaurant
and once-popular student hang-out that
is now locked. A cobweb-covered
bench, with its seats folded up, states,
“Welcome to Pirate Country.”
Tar River Estates, an apartment com
plex located next to the river of the same
name, still has about a dozen buildings
with gutted interiors bearing signs warn
ing “condemned” or “building unfit for
Fish chase minnows around the com
plex’s abandoned swimming pool,
where weeds and algae have started to
grow. Insulation, heart-shaped key
chains commemorating a blood drive
and pieces of an artificial Christmas tree
fitter the floor of the nearby clubhouse.
ECU senior Jacob Parrish of
Louisburg said he lived in Tar River
Estates during the flooding.
Parrish said he went home during
Floyd after receiving a warning from the
police and could not return to the apart
ments until several days later. “Even the
beer truck couldn’t get into Greenville.”
When Parrish was finally able to
return to the apartment weeks later, he
said fungus was growing on the walls
and the floor was covered with mud.
Parrish said he and his roommate,
Bradley Cash of Louisburg, received
about $5,000 in rent aid from the Federal
Emergency Management Agency.
Parrish said other university officials
were equally attentive to student needs -
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Bradley Cash and Jacob Parrish, seniors at ECU, relive the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd on home video.
Displaced from their apartment they were required to wear face masks when checking out the damage.
“Students were seeing their homes devastat
ed,” he said. “They came back and were trying to
maintain an academic focus.”
Edgerly said CPS provided counseling to all
students who requested it and also provided mild
medication to counter some of the symptoms.
But some students, like Cobum, dealt with the
trauma themselves - by waiting, by praying, by
“My roommate and I were really close, and
we prayed - prayed that the rivers wouldn’t crest
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The Tar River Estates clubhouse, littered with debris, has sat deserted
for a year after being almost completely inundated.
perhaps overly so. “This one lady kept
asking me ‘Are you OK?’” he said. “Yes.
‘Are you in denial?’ No.”
Despite offers of support, Parrish said
professors expected too much of stu
dents harmed by the flood, causing his
grades to drop.
He said many students were
depressed by the flood and its impact on
them and their families, but an ECU
football game, played while the campus
Friday, September 15, 2000
was still closed, boosted their morale.
Parrish said the blowout victory
against the fittingly named Miami
Hurricanes lifted students’ spirits.
He said a crowd of students, himself
included, rushed the football field and
tore down the goal posts. “That win
helped more than anything.”
The State & National Editor can be
reached at email@example.com.
so high and things would get better."
Cobum said everything in her fife took a bade
seat to her family concerns.
“You see it on TV, and you don’t believe it’s
your home,” she said. “No one ever thinks it’s
going to happen. It’s heartbreaking.
“Unless you see it, no one will ever know how
bad it was.”
The University Editor can be reached