The eastern North Carolina coastal town of New Bern is facing emergency flooding from Hurricane Florence. On Friday, its location on a peninsula between two rivers joined forces with Hurricane Florence’s east winds to create disaster in the Craven County town 115 miles southeast of the state capitol of Raleigh.
The Neuse and Trent rivers rose 10 feet in a matter of hours, reported The Weather Channel, causing widespread damage and trapping hundreds of people in their flooded homes. The waters were still rising Friday morning, as the eye of the storm reached Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m., says the National Hurricane Center. New Bern is just a few miles from the Pamlico Sound, which added to the town’s flooding.
At least 200 people had been rescued late Thursday, New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw told the Raleigh News & Observer, and a tweet from the town said at least 150 more were waiting to be saved.
New Bern is considered North Carolina’s second oldest town -- 300 years old -- and was once the state capitol.
It’s now a tourist town of 30,000 people, a short drive from popular beach communities in Morehead City, Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle, and 40 miles north of the 156,000-acre Marine Base at Camp Lejuene in Jacksonville. Cape Hatteras National Seashore is also nearby, on the other side of the Pamlico Sound.
The town describes itself as “a charming riverfront town set along the picturesque Trent and Neuse Rivers.” Its historic claim to fame is being the home of Tryon Palace, a restored mansion and tourist attraction that was the state’s “first permanent state capitol” in the 1770s, according to their website. The state’s General Assembly met at the site until 1794, says a website.
Another lesser known fact: One of the town’s drugstores was the birthplace of Pepsi Cola in the late 1800s, says VisitNewBern.com.
The town has a National Historic District of more than 150 buildings, some dating to the 18th Century, says TryonPalace.Org. The status of that area was not clear Friday morning, but town officials told the Weather Channel there was widespread damage in the community.
New Bern has a median income of $41,000 a year, which is about $12,000 less than the US average, according to BestPlaces.Net. Most people in town either work for the Marine base or the Craven County schools, says Livability.com.
Meanwhile, the city said Friday morning that two-thirds of the town -- 21,000 people -- was without electricity and a 7 am to 7 pm curfew was in place “due to serious conditions.”
New Bern resident and business owner Tom Ballance told the Weather Channel early Friday that he was sitting in his home, watching water rise around him.
“Nobody expected this,” he told the Weather Channel. “We were fools.”
Pleas for help were posted on Facebook page, including a woman named Daniela Reyes who wrote on the city’s Facebook page: “There is a mother and a 2 year old stuck on the second floor! The house is flooded. I need help asap!”
Latifyah Squires posted her address on the New Bern Facebook page and added: “Phone dying...Water is in the house. We are in the attic.”
The National Hurricane Center predicted earlier in the week that the town could see 20 to 30 inches of rain, but worse still would be storm surge that was expected to push as much as 13 feet of water into the coastal bays, sounds and rivers.
The National Hurricane Center is predicting flooding will worsen Friday and Saturday, as the storm moves further across the coast.