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Remembering Hurricane Floyd


Ten years ago this week, eastern North Carolina was gripped by the worst natural disaster to ever hit the state. Much of the region was underwater, flooded by torrential rainfall from a hurricane named Floyd.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are measured and categorized by wind speeds, but seldom do high winds alone account for the devastation associated with catastrophic storms. Once a storm makes landfall the winds diminish, but heavy rains can continue far inland and cause extensive flooding over a vast area.

 
 

Hurricane Floyd made landfall on September 16, 1999, southeast of Morehead City, North Carolina, as a category 2 hurricane. It proceeded to dump up to 20 of inches of rain in places throughout the eastern part of the state, including 17 inches in Greenville, causing widespread flooding. On September 21, 1999, five days after Floyd’s landfall, the Tar River in Greenville crested at more than 29 feet—more than double the flood stage.

The National Weather Service lists Hurricane Floyd as the most expensive natural disaster to hit the state of North Carolina, at more than $6 billion in damages. The eastern region of the state was the hardest hit. Flooding and wind damage accounted for $1.6 billion in Pitt County alone. But far more tragic than the loss of property, were the 35 lives lost to Floyd’s rising water.

On campus, the damages from Floyd topped out at $7 million. Five buildings—Howell Science, General Classroom, Brewster, Tyler Residence Hall and Todd Dining Hall—suffered varying degrees of equipment damage, mostly from storm runoff.

One of the bright spots in an otherwise difficult time was the ECU football teams’ 27–23 upset victory over ninth ranked University of Miami Hurricanes. The game had to be played 90 miles away in Raleigh due to the flooding in Greenville. The game galvanized the Pirate Nation and the team responded with one of the most memorable wins in the program’s history, and a much needed lift to the spirits of those affected by Floyd.