KINSTON - A community with barricaded streets and deserted homes paused to remember the devastation of Hurricane Floyd Monday, thirteen years after flood waters changed Lincoln City forever.
Hurricane Floyd remains the largest disaster in North Carolina history, with the Kinston community of Lincoln City among the hardest hit by record flooding. The residential area lies on the banks of the Neuse River, where water rose 27 feet at the height of the disaster.
"There used to be children running everywhere, houses lining every street, we had little candy stores," Lincoln City resident Carolyn Koinegay said. "But now, there's nothing out here."
The category two hurricane triggered the second largest evacuation in U.S. history, sending 2.6 million residents of five states out of the storm's path. Floyd made landfall Sept. 16, 1999, destroying 800 homes in Lincoln City.
"All the furniture was on the sidewalk, all the food was gone, everything was gone," Koinegay said. "And it just left no houses. Just left a few here and there."
Empty driveways now lead to empty lots, where condemned houses once teetered on the edge of dilapidation. FEMA bought the land where the homes stood, and prohibited rebuilding. Officials said it would be too dangerous to redevelop the area along the 500 year floodplain, a region extending three quarters of a mile from the middle of the Neuse River into Kinston.
"So many were displaced and the neighborhood I knew is completely gone," said resident Joseph Murrell. "Now, it's like we were never here."
More than 3,000 people chose to leave the area, using state and federal funds to purchase new homes in other areas of Lenoir County. Those who chose to stay now live in an area where overgrown brush swallows several streets, a community where most residents say creating a future as bright as the past is impossible.
"It's hard to describe what this place was like all those years ago," Murrell said. "You had to be here. To me, it's heritage... something we're trying so hard to preserve."
According to Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, plans are in the works to house a Lincoln City museum in an unused recreation building. Since 2007, a reunion has been held every Memorial Day weekend, drawing approximately 3,000 to Holloway Park.