In 1999, everyone in the east during late August and September will never forget two tropical cyclones that redefined flood plains and left folks stranded in some form. Scores of homes under water and many square miles of inundated property became known as the “Flood of the Century,” as rivers and streams became relentless flows of water across eastern North Carolina.
On August 30th, a hurricane named “Dennis” grazed the Carolina coast and turned out to sea. However, “Dennis” wasn’t finished. This tropical system stalled about 150 miles east of Cape Hatteras for a few days. Then, it did an about-face and made landfall near Harker’s Island, N.C., as a tropical storm with 70 mph winds on September 5th. In about a week, the “one-two” jabs of “Dennis” dropped between 6 and 10 inches of rain across the WNCT-TV 9 viewing area.
As “Dennis” doused the coastal plain with this significant amount of rainfall, another tropical cyclone named “Floyd” was born in the far-eastern Atlantic Ocean during the first week of September. Within another week, Hurricane Floyd made landfall near Cape Fear, N.C., on September 16th and plowed through eastern North Carolina dumping over 20 inches of rain along with its battering winds.
Within a span of about two weeks, the east received nearly 30 inches of rain, which is about 80 percent of what we get normally during an entire year! This incredible amount of rainfall caused rivers and streams to rise to record levels and extend the flood waters miles from their normal banks. For example, the Tar River reached a record level of nearly 30 feet in Greenville on September 21st, which is over twice the depth of flood stage at 13 feet.
As this knock-out punch from Hurricane Floyd’s rains inundated the coastal plain of the old north state. The flood waters destroyed 7,000 homes, caused nearly 1,500 people to be rescued and 35 people reportedly lost their lives across eastern North Carolina.