Hurricane Matthew one year later: Craven Co. recovery efforts

CRAVEN COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT) – Sunday marks the one year anniversary since Hurricane Matthew hit the east.

It actually made landfall along the South Carolina coast, but that wasn’t enough to spare areas in eastern Carolina.

One of the areas hit hard was Craven County.

9 On Your Side visited with people in the county today on their experience one year later.

“You don’t never know,” Vanceboro resident Mitchell Townsend said. “You wake up one morning and it’s in the backyard and the next morning you wake up and it’s across the highway, it just comes that fast.”

Townsend has lived on Streets Ferry Road in Vanceboro his entire life.

“52 years, all my life,” Townsend said.

He has experienced a number of hurricanes.

“This house has been in water… I mean we have rebuilt this house twice,” Townsend said.

He put his home up on stilts after Irene, like many people in the neighborhood, before Hurricane Matthew tore through last year.

“I mean it was just water everywhere,” Townsend said. “It was just flooded, I mean I was coming in on a boat… I rode my boat right there over my steps… three or four feet under the house.”

Swift Creek, part of the Neuse River Basin next to the neighborhood, breached its banks and inundated the area.

“It might have got in the floors of the house if we hadn’t raised it up,” Townsend said “It probably would have.”

In New Bern, it wasn’t much better.

In fact, the flooding there was enough to make city officials re-evaluate their storm drainage.

Dallas Blackiston is the first ward alderman.

“Looking at the older pipes we have in the ground, they’re quite old in the older parts of the city.” Blackiston said. “They are terracotta. A lot of them are undersized, so we are working on capital improvements to replace a lot of that.”

Storm drainage is also something Townsend says needs improvement back in Vanceboro.

“I can’t tell you it’s gotten any better… I mean they say cleaning the creek out and stuff would help,” Townsend said.

Townsend says hurricanes are just a part of life in eastern North Carolina, and he isn’t going anywhere.

“No I’m not leaving. I’ve lived here all my life. This is oceanfront property right here in Vanceboro,” Townsend said. “I’m staying.”

Vanceboro and New Bern are tied together by the Neuse River.

Blackistn says that the Neuse River is very narrow in Vanceboro, which is why it has a tendency to breach its banks there.

As you move toward New Bern, it becomes wider, so the trick is finding a way to make sure runoff water makes in into the river to avoid flooding on land.

The city of New Bern has appropriated $1.5 million to rework storm drains in the city.

9 On Your Side reached out to Vanceboro this week to see what they are working on for storm drainage, but no one was available for immediate comment.

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