By Erin Smith
With the lifting of the evacuation order and curfew for the Kelly community, many residents have slowly begun to return to their homes. On Thursday, some residents on Natmore Road were taking advantage of the warm, sunny weather to drag their belongings outside to dry. Some homes along NC 53 still had trees laying in the yards while others seemed to escape Hurricane Florence’s wrath relatively untouched.
Kenny and Katherine Thornton, who reside on NC 53 in Kelly, said their home fared well. Flood waters came close but did not enter their residence.
Frances and Alfred Ray Squires, who reside on Natmore Road, were cleaning out their flooded home and setting belongings out to dry. Frances Squires teared up when asked about the damage to her home caused by Hurricane Florence. The house was her husband’s home place, and the couple had moved it from another location to Natmore Road several years ago.
Squires said during the storm, a tree blew down onto the house, and they left. She said after the storm, they returned home to meet the insurance adjuster, only to be told they had to evacuate due to the impending flooding.
“They took us out through the woods to White Lake,” said Squires.
She continued, “I do have insurance, but I didn’t have flood insurance. I didn’t expect this.”
Squires recalled the last time the Kelly community flooded in this manner was in 1945.
“Coming back is hard,” said Squires, as she looked around her porch at her belongings and mementos from 43 years piled around the front yard. She estimated the water reached about 2 feet deep inside her home. Squires said they are uncertain as to what they will do regarding rebuilding.
A group of men with Vertical Church arrived and offered to help the couple finish removing items from the home, and to help begin the tear out process.
Up the road, Wayne Morgan said he was evacuated three times before the flood waters claimed his home. He said he left with the first evacuation notice, then returned to get some more things; and unfortunately, with the third evacuation, the flood waters claimed his house.
“The last time we were actually able to get out of here; water was waist deep. There were 16 vehicles lined up and pushing the water, so we could get out of here,” said Morgan.
He said a helicopter was flying people to school buses that were waiting on NC 53 to take them to safety. Morgan said the water reached about 18 inches deep inside his home.
“I’ve had to gut everything out. The guys from the Baptist Association came and helped me today (Thursday). We got a lot of that knocked out,” said Morgan.
He said he is thankful to still have a home. Morgan said he is planning to rebuild.
Doug and Kim Pridgen said they, too, plan to repair and rebuild their home.
“We’ve all experienced flooding in this area, but nothing of this magnitude. When we learned the dike had been breached in Kelly, it kind of put things in perspective — water was coming, it was on the way,” said Pridgen.
On Thursday water was still standing in a canal which runs behind Pridgen’s home. He said the water in the canal, which is still out of its banks, was a mixture of flood waters from three different sources.
“Once everything from Black River and Cane Tuck started coming in and filling up that way, it couldn’t go out fast enough and it started backing up,” said Pridgen.
He estimated the depth of the water inside his home to have reached 16 inches. Pridgen said he has begun the process of tearing out flood damaged walls, and flooring, so he can begin repairing his home.
Pridgen also is a member of the Kelly Volunteer Fire Department, and he was checking on his residence and also assisting with rescuing residents. He said on Thursday, September 20, he decided it was time to evacuate. His wife, Kim, took their children and evacuated on Monday, September 17.
Pridgen said, at the time he chose to evacuate, the flooding was making the roads almost impassable.
Other residents in Kelly who reside along the Cape Fear River were still waiting for flood waters to recede, and roads to be repaired before they can gain access to their homes.
Jeff Huff, who was volunteering at the Centerville Baptist Church Distribution Center, said many residents still have not returned to Kelly. He said many still cannot access their homes.
He said the church has had 200 families to whom they have given supplies including bottled water, personal hygiene products, cleaning buckets, and cleaning supplies.
Pridgen said there needs to be some work done to the White Oak Dike, and all the dikes that protect the Kelly, Rowan and Cane Tuck areas. He said the two locations where the dike was breached were areas where people tend to drive over the dike to access logging areas.
He said the dike system is in need of maintenance such as repairing areas that are eroded naturally, and vegetation that may be growing on the dike.