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‘Worse out there than it was in here:’ Senior citizens stay in place as Lumber River rises

September 20, 2018

Families living near flooded rivers are anxiously waiting for the water to recede so they can see what is left of their homes.

The process has started in Lumberton, but officials said it may not last as the Lumber River is expected to rise again by Sunday.

The pumps were working furiously Wednesday to counter Mother Nature and get the water out, and city officials said Lumberton’s levee is holding up despite the flooding left behind by Hurricane Florence.

Mohr Plaza, a public housing complex for seniors, is in a floodplain, and although residents were encouraged to leave, most did not. Residents said they felt safer in their homes than they would in an emergency shelter.

Residents said they are like family, helping each other and keeping each other safe. The senior citizens are optimistic they will remain untouched by the Lumber River.

“If we ain’t got the aftermath of it now, we ain’t going to get it,” resident Larry Huggins said.

“Seemed to me like it was worse out there than it was in here, so why should I leave here to go out there? Some of them don’t have lights. I have lights and shelter,” resident Michael McCollum said.

The director of the Lumberton Housing Authority said other properties were damaged by Hurricane Florence, which ripped shingles off and caused a water leak at one apartment. The woman who lived inside that unit was moved to another apartment.

He said it is too soon to know the extent of damage at all properties or how many people have been displaced because some of the properties are still inaccessible due to high water.

On Wednesday, blue skies and sunshine prompted some elsewhere in Lumberton to think that maybe the water had receded enough to allow them to return home.

Many quickly realized they would not be able to return to their houses as water along Kite Road in Lumberton was still several feet deep.

“It’s devastating. I mean, you don’t know when you’re going home, if you’re going to get to go home, if it’ll still be livable. You just don’t know,” resident Kathy Loman said.

“I’m trying to be strong, but when someone brings it up and talks about they’re sorry, it hits pretty hard,” resident Sammy Freeman said.

Across town, flooding was posing a challenge to everyday life.

“They keep saying we ain’t seen the worst of the water yet, so we don’t know what to expect,” resident Goldie Fields said.

Finding an open grocery store Wednesday was tough and pushing a grocery cart home, through floodwaters, was a real challenge. One pregnant mother walked for half a mile, barefoot, in search of supplies.

“Right now, I’m trying to get my baby some diapers, some wipes, a meal, something to eat,” she said.

Even though the floodwaters were beginning to recede, many are hoping relief will come soon.

“I’m just trusting in the Lord, just knowing that he’s providing. I got my life and got my health,” Freeman said.

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