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Rebuilding a Community

Unprecedented Flooding Killed Dozens

In was in 1999 that Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina. It was only a category 2 storm, but its unprecedented flooding killed dozens and brought destruction that left a lasting impact on eastern North Carolina.

Floods devastated Princeville's homes, churches, businesses, and cemeteries. Princeville's business community—comprising 30 or so small businesses — was virtually leveled. And the town's historic churches were also severely affected including Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church, founded in 1876 with the sanctuary built in 1895. Mt. Zion today remains one of the oldest African American houses of worship in the state. It was the only one of the town's six churches not to be torn-down.

"I can't honestly say that there was ever a moment where I thought ahead of time that it was going to end up as catastrophic as it ended up being," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. On Sept. 5, 1999, Tropical Storm Dennis dumped 6 to 16 inches of rain

Princeville, North Carolina was founded in 1865 on the banks of the Tar River by formerly enslaved Africans at the end of the Civil War. Chartered in 1885, it is the nation's first independently governed African American community.

Princeville is in fact the oldest incorporated black town in the United States. In 1999, much of Princeville was lost when flooding from back-to-back hurricanes devastated the city. The city's 2,100 residents, many of them descendants of the original settlers, found their homes submerged under water for two weeks. They lost virtually everything.

The Tar  River Flooded the Entire Town of Princeville

"The bottom line is that eastern North Carolina became pretty much a lake," said meteorologist Jeff Orrock, with the National Weather Service. "It didn't really matter just about where you were in a lot of these areas. I mean, you were flooded." The Tar River flooded the entire town of Princeville. "Next thing I know, the water was up to the top of my house, right to the pitch of my house, and everything, everything was gone," Princeville resident Eddie Hinton recalled.

Years past, and in spite of the valiant efforts by local residents, county organizations, and state agencies, large numbers of residents were still being housed in make shift, temporary, portable trailers.

The GBSC  Response: Give Residents Back Their Live s by Building Homes

“Missions is who we are”, and the GBSC response to the many residents that were still without permanent housing was to give these residents back their lives, by building homes for their displaced families. In 2010, the full resources of our State Convention was brought to bear on what appeared to others as an intractable, unsolvable problem. We formed partnership after partnership with faith based organizations in addition to local, county, state, national and federal organizations.

The result of the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s efforts in Princeville was not only the renewal  of housing, but the  renewing of  the spirit of the residents, in this previously flood ravaged community. Our work is far from finished in Princeville, but the results of our “Missions” efforts are new homes, reunited families and futures for the residents that offer promise and possibilities.

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on drought-stricken eastern North Carolina. Eleven days later, Hurricane Floyd dropped another 12 to 20 inches.

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