The Tar River crested today for the fourth time in two months as more rain fell across flood-battered eastern North Carolina and frazzled residents kept a close watch on Hurricane Jose.
The Tar crested here 3 feet above its 19-foot flood stage after the runoff from Hurricane Irene's rains Sunday sent it out of its banks again. The river had retreated after record, ruinous flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd last month.
While the Tar's brown waters began to drop once again today, rain continued to fall.
"It's pouring rain today, and another hurricane is out there," said Rachel House, a legal secretary in Tarboro whose office was inundated by Floyd and who was unconvinced that the river's cresting necessarily signaled better times. "I'm tired of seeing water."
During the height of Floyd's flooding, the Tar swelled to 43 feet, flooding most of east Tarboro and the community of Princeville across the river. Princeville, a town of 2,100 founded by former slaves, was swallowed by 20-foot flood waters and remains uninhabitable.
Eastern North Carolina rivers have crested four times since early September, when Hurricane Dennis dumped 8 inches of rain on the region. Floyd's epic, 20-inch rainfall was next on Sept. 16, followed less than two weeks later by a tropical storm that poured 8 inches. Irene, the mildest of the four storms, dumped 5 to 6 inches of rain, delaying recovery efforts from Floyd.
The Neuse and the Cape Fear rivers also rose toward crests in Irene's wake but, like the Tar, neither is expected to cause serious flooding.
"We shouldn't have any major problems with the crest that's predicted tomorrow," said Thomas Rowe, a Wayne County emergency services specialist who was keeping an eye on the Neuse River.
It is due to crest Thursday in Goldsboro between 22 and 23 feet; flood stage is 14 feet.
Jose, now in the eastern Caribbean, may bring more rain. Forecasters, uncertain of its path, were hoping a cold front would deflect it before it reached the U.S. mainland.
The Cape Fear River, which flows from Fayetteville to Wilmington and from there to the Atlantic, is expected to crest at Elizabethtown 6 feet above its 20-foot flood stage on Sunday. Low-lying countryside mainly would be affected, officials said.
Mitchell Byrd, director of emergency services for Bladen County, said the river may flood outbuildings and yards but should not force any evacuations.