Telling the story of Floyd, 15 years later

Published 9:20 am Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On Sept. 15, 15 years ago, major Hurricane Floyd was bearing down on the coast of southeast North Carolina. The next day, Thursday, Sept. 16, 1999, the hurricane had crossed inland into southeast Virginia and brought with it catastrophic flooding, which caused then President Bill Clinton to declare 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 then there were the residents. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, returned to their flood-soaked homes, and many of them found 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 flood waters had risen during one of the area’s worst, if not the worst, catastrophe.

Looking back, hundreds helped make this happen through sheer effort and will. Area policemen, sheriff’s deputies, the National Guard, state troopers, telephone repair teams and utility workers all played big roles. As did politicians, including then Franklin Mayor Jim Councill, then Sheriff Vernie Francis and then and now County Administrator Mike Johnson.

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 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 did climb the mountain. And looking back, The Tidewater News would like to tell the story of how that happened. Please send in pictures and feel free to contact us with stories. We are hoping to highlight the efforts this week for a Sunday focus, and we can’t do it right without your help. Contact us via email at You can also call us at 562-3187, and you can even send messages to us via Facebook.