Franklin flood memories sought

Published 10:12 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fifteen years ago today, people in Western Tidewater — especially in Franklin — were just beginning to realize the damage from Hurricane Floyd, which had crossed inland into northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia just two days earlier. Even after two days had passed, floodwaters still stood in some hard-hit areas. All around the region, people were assessing the damage left behind as the floods receded. Then-President Bill Clinton declared Franklin and the counties of Southampton and Isle of Wight major federal disaster areas.

More than 100 businesses in Franklin alone were virtually destroyed. Hundreds of farmers in Western Tidewater lost their crops. Work at the International Paper mill screeched to a halt. And many people returned to their flood-soaked homes to find that everything they had worked for was lost.

Today, to the credit of all three communities, it’d be hard to tell that Floyd had happened at all, without the markers showcasing how far the floodwaters had risen during one of the area’s worst catastrophes.

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Hundreds of people brought about the resurrection through sheer effort and force of will. Area policemen, sheriff’s deputies, the National Guard, state troopers, telephone repair teams and utility workers all played big roles.

There were also volunteers and brave people who helped rescue their neighbors, helped with food and opened their homes to the homeless.

In an editorial written on Sept. 26, 1999, for our sister paper, The Tidewater News, then Publisher Haynes Byerly wrote: “Let’s go back to the old song about climbing one hill after another and then facing a mountain. Yes, it is a huge mountain facing Franklin and Southampton. With the help of the entire community, it will be climbed.”

Western Tidewater surely climbed the mountain.

The Tidewater News will recall the events in a special feature this Sunday, and the journalists there are looking for help from those who were involved in the efforts. If you have photos or stories you can share, email them at, or call 562-3187. We know folks from Suffolk helped with the recovery effort, so we’re sharing the request here.