RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Not since the devastation of Hurricane Floyd in 1999 had North Carolina seen such horrific and destructive flooding.
In Oct. 2016, as Hurricane Matthew pushed its way by the state, many were caught unprepared for what it would do.
“I think a lot of people tuned out the potential impact that Matthew could have because it was never expected to make landfall in North Carolina,” said Katie Webster, assistant director of Plans at North Carolina Emergency Management.
Matthew made landfall in South Carolina but turned out to the Atlantic before crossing into North Carolina.
That didn’t stop the storm from dropping torrential rain on North Carolina.
More than 100,000 homes and buildings flooded, there were more than 2,300 water rescues and 31 drownings, most of which occurred after their vehicles were caught in floodwaters.
Just as it did after Floyd the state got a better grip on how low-lying areas, rivers, swamps and creeks flood.
The state worked to improve mapping and communication between law enforcement, hospitals, and emergency services.
It also understood how to better evacuate.
The effort helped North Carolina be more prepared for the next big storm – Hurricane Florence.
“Honing our skills for our search and rescue and urban search and rescue teams including our other response teams to include state medical assistance teams,” said Webster.
Fifty people died in North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence in 2018 but less people were killed due to floodwaters than for other reasons.
Webster believes that was due in part to improved public awareness of the dangers.
Agriculture is a $10 billion business in our state.
Matthew destroyed crops and killed livestock, including more than 1.8 million chickens.
Webster said Matthew taught lessons on that front as well.
“Where they’ve put waivers into place and they are able to get crops or livestock out where they can ahead of potential impacts because they understand the magnitude of the situation,” Webster said.
Farmers and growers also have storms that they can now use as a reference when trying to prepare.
When it comes to rebuilding in areas prone to flooding, that criteria has also changed.
“We can’t control the weather, we certainly can’t control how many storms we get a year and what that impact is. But what we can control is where that recovery money is put and what those projects entail what that goes to” said Webster.
Because while so far so good this hurricane season, we will at some point face this yet again.