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Nursing Home Residents Recall Rescue From Flood Waters

September 17, 1989

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ A 74-year-old woman says she never prayed as hard as she did when a flood sent water flowing beneath a door and under her wheelchair in the nursing home where she lives.

″I was yelling. I said, ‘Look at the water coming under the door.’ I hadn’t seen anything like this before,″ Blanche Watson said.

″I told them then I was scared of airplanes, but that if one had come by last night I would have certainly have hopped on,″ she said of Friday night’s flood, caused by a cloudburst that dropped almost 4 inches of rain in just two hours.

Two children drowned during the flood in spite of the efforts of a human- chain rescue team, and at least 400 people were forced to evacuate. Elsewhere in the East, floods in West Virginia killed two people.

Ms. Watson was one of 168 residents evacuated from the America’s Health Care of Fayetteville nursing home. A number of shelters were set up around the city for them and other evacuees.

Most of the nursing home residents had to be taken out by boat, though some were carried through the water and others were pushed out in their wheelchairs. A few of the able-bodied residents climbed atop a roof and waited for help.

No injuries were reported, said Mildred Cross, the nursing home administrator.

″The lightning scared the daylights out of most of us,″ said nursing home resident Socrates Costas. ″Everybody was in a daze. I don’t know where all the volunteers came from, but they were a lot of help.″

Maintenance man James Backman said water was nearly 56 inches deep in the nursing home’s bottom floors.

On Sunday, Police Lt. C.P. Ware of the situation: ″Everything’s calm. All emergency personnel have gone home.″

But Ms. Cross, who waded through muddy water in the nursing home’s main halls Saturday while she waited for an insurance adjuster, said cleanup would be a big job. With furniture covered in mud and most of the food under water, she didn’t expect residents to be back in their regular rooms right away.

Mayor J.L. Dawkins said 10 to 15 Marines from Camp Lejeune who were on their way to Fort Bragg for an exercise had stopped and assisted the nursing home residents who were evacuated.

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