September 2000


Hurricane Floyd: One Year Later
Employees recover from devastation

By Bryan Bass

With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Floyd upon us, reminders of the stormís devastation remain.

Last year, Correction News highlighted three victims of Hurricane Floyd. We decided to find out how some of them are doing one year later.

Following Hurricane Floyd, the only mode of transportation to correctional officer Saint Paul Edwards' home was by boat. When he finally got into his house by way of a second floor window, he found that most of his family's mementos were ruined. The entire first floor of their home near Snow Hill was completely flooded.

Edwards, an officer at Eastern Correctional Institution, said he wanted to cry when he saw a family photo floating inside his house. Most of his family's photographs were destroyed. The few remaining pictures hang on a living room wall in their new house in Snow Hill.

During the height of flooding following Hurricane Floyd, Edwards and his family were separated for six days. When they reunited, they stayed with friends and family while they looked for a new home.

Edwards said the scariest thing about the flood was being separated from his family, which includes his wife Wanda, his 14-year-old son Saint Paul, Jr., and 11-year-old daughter Shannon. While waiting to see his family, he worked long shifts for those six days, sleeping and eating at Eastern. Staffing problems caused the flood forced everyone at Eastern to work overtime. Edwards also stayed at the unit because he said he had nowhere else to go. He was a "walking zombie" until he saw his family, Edwards said.

Luckily for the Edwards family, their bedrooms were all upstairs, so their clothing was not lost to the waters. They salvaged what they could from the house and moved into an apartment. However, Edwards said, "We were still living out of boxes." One day he looked across the street and saw a "For Sale" sign. He asked his wife, "Wanda, is that what I think it is?" They moved into that house on January 17.

The scars still remain for Edwards. Material losses and the separation from his family still affect him. "The flood is gone, but the memories will never leave," Edwards said.

Floodwaters also invaded Mary Willingham's Rocky Mount home. Despite suffering more than $119,000 in losses, Willingham said she and her husband George decided to stay in her house and rebuild. Willingham, lead nurse at Fountain Correctional Center, said the only thing she saved from her flooded home near the Tar River was her puppy Mack and a few photos.

Willingham said the flood was unbelievable. "It was like it wasn't really happening," she said.

They had no flood insurance, but donations from church, co-workers and a company in Thomasville helped the couple get back on their feet.

During the flooding, the couple moved in with a family member and stayed until they found an apartment a month later. In January, the couple moved back into their home. "It's nice. I love it," Willingham said.


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