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From top: Duplin County poultry agent James Parsons walks flooded ruts with Greg Jennings, associate state program leader for agriculture and natural resources; Duplin County farmer Ernest Grady responds to the sight of his drowned turkeys; in Pitt County, agents retrieve drowned cattle; the flooded first floor of this Edgecombe County office building housed the county Cooperative Extension Center; inside the center, the waters receded to reveal extensive damage.

Dr. Karen DeBord, family and consumer sciences specialist, visits with a child in a Tarboro shelter.

Phillip Rowan, Pitt County Extension agent, stands ready to deliver bales of
hay to farmers in need.

Steps to Recovery
Related: Huricane Relief Efforts (Pictorial)

here are those who still shudder as they remember Hazel and the coastal plain devastation of that 1954 hurricane. Thunder and hard wind may awaken in another generation of North Carolinians memories of Hugo, of Bertha, of Fran. But now Floyd is a name that will resonate as synonymous with loss and suffering well into the century to come.

A Flood Victims Home

Hurricane Floyd took 49 lives and maimed a region ó indeed an entire state when the ripple effects of the flood finally have spread in a contaminated tide over North Carolina, its people and its economy.

It is perhaps the relentlessness of the mid-September disaster that is most shocking. Flooding rains continued in the week after the storm, assuring that homes, livelihoods and a return to normality were not waiting just around the corner. To those surveying the aftermath, itís a horribleness that the mind canít wrap itself around and that can do no other than break the heart.

Estimates and early calculations told one tale: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced within little more than a week of the storm that agricultural losses had reached $799.2 million, including $523 million in crop damages, $263.5 million in damaged structures and $12.7 million in destroyed livestock. Thatís tallied into the billions of dollars of property loss in the region.

Photographs have told another: Despondent families wading toward their homes to recover whatís left. Unearthed coffins drifting level with the tops of street signs. Pink hills of dead hogs stacked for incineration, while surviving pigs clamber from the water onto rooftops. Drowned poultry floating in a flooded chicken house. A mobile home full of drowned cattle that had somehow pushed their way into the abandoned place in a vain attempt to find refuge. Tobacco, cotton, peanut and strawberry fields submerged for days beneath several feet of water.

Yet there is another tale being told, of the generosity exhibited by citizens across the state and the nation who offered support to eastern North Carolinians. That spirit was abundantly present in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

In the College, the Floyd Response Team coordinated the most extensive pre-storm and flood relief efforts undertaken by the university. Among those efforts: Campus experts provided question-and-answer response information for cleanup and recovery via news releases issued by the department of communication services, including Web site and teletip resources provided for growers. Cooperative Extension personnel along with faculty members from numerous departments got the word out about methods to dispose of livestock and poultry carcasses. Animal science faculty issued advisories on animal rescue and vaccinations for livestock in flood waters. Soil scientists issued guides for farmers whose pesticide storage facilities were flooded. Family and consumer sciences experts outlined insurance information, advised how to return to flood-contaminated homes and warned against post-disaster fraud pitfalls.

Four county centers ó Bertie, Edgecombe, Lenoir and Pitt ó were damaged by flooding, yet their Cooperative Extension staff members, many of whom suffered personal losses, worked from their homes or from temporary quarters. Neighboring centers were serving counties where centers were not operational.

Dr. Jon Ort, Cooperative Extension director, offers encouragement to Pitt County Extension Center staff members.

Extension personnel were active in hands-on relief activities. Ben Chase, Rockingham County agent, initiated and organized hay and feed relief efforts for the impacted counties. In the days and weeks after the storm, Pitt County Extension agent Phillip Rowan worked around the clock in retrieving and disposing of drowned livestock, and then in getting much-needed hay supplies to farmers to feed animals that survived. "People were really emotional when they received the hay," Rowan said in early October. "There was a real urgency among them to get the hay, and things were so chaotic the first week [after the storm]. Now weíre finding out who needs it. And the disposal of dead livestock has finally begun to slow down." Mitch Smith, Pitt County Extension director, called Rowan "a true beacon in the county," adding that "for some people, Phillip was the only hope of help they had."

In Duplin County, county director Ed Emory reported that Extension coordinated with the National Guard to fly four helicopters to take poultry and swine producers to their farms inaccessible due to flooding, completing 12 missions in 16 hours of flight time. The two groups also coordinated to provide four 10-wheel vehicles to carry feed to swine and poultry farms. Extension personnel likewise served as a contact for lagoon management information for swine producers and coordinated incineration efforts to handle dead livestock and poultry. They also worked with crop farmers to assess loss and determined what equipment could be salvaged.

In Jones County, livestock agent W.G. Simmons tirelessly assisted independent producers impacted by flooded animal facilities. And in Lenoir County, Extension staff immediately responded with a natural disaster information package that was hand-delivered to shelters, churches, TV and radio stations, county governments and town halls.

Dr. Jon Ort, associate dean and Cooperative Extension Service director, visited the damaged centers and outlying areas in these counties, as well, to assess the damage and offer support to Extension staff members. Back in Raleigh, Dean James L. Oblinger and Ort met with N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Jim Graham, Norris Tolson, chairman of the Governorís Floyd Relief Fund, and many of the stateís top commodity leaders to create a means for donors to contribute funds directly to benefit agriculture and farm families. This group established the NCDA Farmer Disaster Fund in The North Carolina Agricultural Foundation Inc.

As 4-H members collected clothing and developed activity boxes for children housed in temporary centers, Mike Davis, state 4-H leader, announced the establishment of a special fund within the 4-H Development Fund to assist 4-H families hit by disaster.

Meanwhile, College volunteers gathered donations of food and household supplies in a truck on the N.C. State brickyard for delivery to displaced flood victims. Later, at the N.C. State-Clemson football game, as well as the North Carolina State Fair, the College set up booths to gather monetary contributions and supplied donors with stickers that read, "I gave Eastern North Carolina a Helping Hand."

In a bleak landscape of destruction, such steps are what it takes to move wearily ó but determinedly ó forward.

The College has set up three funds through which to assist Hurricane Floyd relief:

  • The NCDA Farmer Disaster Fund (to directly benefit agriculture and farm families impacted by the hurricane)

  • The CALS Floyd Relief Fund (to directly benefit eastern North Carolina families and communities impacted by the hurricane)

  • The NCCESF Benevolence Fund (to directly benefit Extension families impacted by the hurricane)

To contribute, please designate the chosen fund and make checks payable to:

The North Carolina Agricultural Foundation

(Tax ID# 56-6049304)

Send to:
North Carolina Agricultural Foundation
Box 7645, NC State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7645