Technically, Hurricane Matthew only scoured up the Southeast coast for two days. It moved into South Florida early Friday morning and by Sunday had all but departed the Mid-Atlantic coast. For most coastal residents, the cleanup process began as soon as the rain stopped. In North Carolina, though, the disaster is going to last into next week.
In Kinston, N.C., Matthew Young’s home was inundated with water during a flash flood Saturday. The rain was falling too hard during Hurricane Matthew for the soil to absorb it. He’s using the evenings after work to clean up the mess, but his renter’s insurance does not cover flood damage. He’s applying for FEMA assistance for that.
Many of the Kinston homes, buildings and farms that were flooded Saturday are getting hit for the second time in less than a week as the Neuse River climbs to a new record. Then, instead of receding back to normal, the river is forecast to stay well above major flood stage through at least Monday.
“It will be weeks before things are even remotely back to normal here,” Young said.
It won’t be until around Oct. 22 — two weeks after Matthew struck — that the water will recede below major flood stage in Kinston. A “major” flood is the most severe on the Weather Service scale. It means mass evacuations are ordered and extensive property damage inflicted. Kinston residents may not be able to return to their homes until next Saturday.
The outlook does not get better for other cities along the Tar, Black and Lumber rivers. Never mind the record-breaking crests: The flooding’s duration is the most mind-boggling aspect of this disaster. In Lumberton, the water isn’t forecast to recede below Hurricane Floyd’s old record until Sunday.
“You can attribute that to the many tributaries along the river — the creeks and streams that run into and out of these rivers,” said Lara Pagano, a National Weather Service hydrologist. “They are just full. They get backed up and the river becomes even more elevated. The water has nowhere to go.”
Working with the Southeast River Forecast Center, Pagano said she expected the Neuse River at Kinston to fall below flood stage around Oct. 26.
Record-setting river crests
Lumber River in Lumberton, N.C.
Black River near Tomahawk, N.C.
Neuse River near Goldsboro, N.C.
Little River near Princeton, N.C.
Little River at Manchester, N.C.
Little Pee Dee River River near Galivants Ferry, S.C.