It finally stopped raining in Robeson County on Monday. It will be days before the water drains away and the real cleanup can begin. But some evacuees took advantage of the break in the weather to venture back to their flooded neighborhoods to try to at least assess the damage.
What many found was flooding that was much like it was two years ago after Hurricane Matthew -- so bad that in most places, people trying to check on their homes were stopped by flooded roads or police before they can get close. But in an unnamed neighborhood just south of the city, a dozen or so residents turned the two entrances into their U-shaped neighborhood into impromptu boat ramps.
They launched a rag-tag flotilla of half a dozen canoes and aluminum jon boats to check the damages to their homes and retrieve anything important they left behind.
Most left a couple of days ago, when the water was still just filling ditches. By Monday morning, it was nearly up to their mailboxes.
Lydia Locklear, a retired home healthcare worker, is known in the neighborhood by her middle name, Marie.
She has been having flashbacks about Hurricane Matthew, when she lost everything in her mobile home, a new car and a truck.
She evacuated to her son-in-law’s house days ago. But she heard Sunday that a makeshift berm to block the rising Lumber River had failed, and water was pouring in the same place it had two years ago. That made for a hard night.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Locklear said. “I said ‘Lord, my house under water again.’ I was panicking. I woke everybody up, and said, 'Get up and worry with me'.”
Locklear said she and her neighbors learned hard lessons in Matthew.
One, was to get out early so that they didn’t have to be evacuated again by boat. Another was to not trust official guesses about how likely another flood was or how high another flood could get.
“And all the permits said I had to go higher than the water went last time,” Locklear said. “And everybody’s talking about, ‘Well, if you flood one time, you’ll flood again, so I said well, let’s just go higher’.”
So after Hurricane Matthew, she had the workers build up her yard a foot higher that required. But she wasn’t sure if she really had built it up high enough for this flood, and whether she would have to start over again. Bo Scott, a relative of one resident, said he would take her to find out.
Lockear said no.
But her neighbors ribbed her until she relented and climbed in the boat. While she was checking for damage, other neighbors watched, just happy for the tiny bit of normalcy of being around each other again.
Tammy Maynor, who lives just across the street from Marie, had come with her husband, Gerald. They had already been to their house.
“We just basically come to check the house to see it…because basically the waters hadn’t got in our house yet,” Maynor said. “They were in our ducts, we still had about that much before it came in on the floors, and so we came back to day to just basically look to see if it had came in. And it has.”
Last time, the rising water caught them off guard and they escaped with just one big bag of clothes. After that, they bought an enclosed trailer. They used it to move their possessions out early this time.
Matthew had lifted water waist high inside and it had taken them five months to get the house at least habitable. Now they have more work to do.
“But it don’t hurt like it did the last time let me tell you,” Maynor said. “I cried so many tears last time I could have filled this place top again ten times. I lost 15 pounds, my husband lost 15 pounds, we couldn’t eat.”
The small neighborhood is close knit. There is a lot of love here, is the way that Maynor puts it.
“And that’s why we came back after the flood. Because we said: “This is home,” Maynor said.
Scott brought Locklear back, who sat stoically in the front of the little boat and tried to ignore her friends’ ribbing about cavorting with young men in boats.
They helped her out and ask if she brought anything back from the mobile home. She said no, because she’s got good news.
“I didn’t get nothing. There’s no water in there, so I didn’t take out nothing,” Locklear said.
So, it appears she did build up her home high enough. At least this time.