North Carolina Fears Hurricane Florence May Be Another Floyd, 1999's Deadly Disaster

The shocking photos in this slideshow show the impact of Hurricane Floyd, which left 57 people dead and caused $6.5 billion in damage in 1999.  Newsweek

Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 miles per hour, is expected to make landfall on Friday, bringing heavy, sustained rain and potentially deadly flooding to the U.S. Southeast coast. Some 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate. Many in North Carolina are fearful that this storm may turn out to be a repeat of 1999's Hurricane Floyd. 

Floyd had weakened to a Category 2 storm by the time it hit North Carolina, but it dumped torrential rainfall that caused flooding that lasted for weeks. The storm's path also took it across the Bahamas, Virginia and New Jersey. The storm and its associated flooding left 57 people dead and caused $6.5 billion in damage. 

Rivers in the eastern part of the state exceeded 500-year flooding records, killing hundreds of thousands of poultry and pigs and contaminating waterways with animal carcasses and manure. The shocking photos in this slideshow show the impact of flooding in North Carolina as well as New Jersey and Virginia. 

Nearly 20 years later, farmers are rushing to harvest corn and tobacco, stock up on pig rations and reduce levels of liquid manure in outdoor storage pits, while the danger of deadly flooding threatens a state where millions of farm animals are housed.

North Carolina is the country’s leading producer of tobacco, second-biggest producer of hogs and a major poultry producer. The state has 8.9 million swine, 12 percent of the U.S. herd. Its crops include corn, soy and cotton, making agriculture the state’s No. 1 industry, valued at $87 billion.

The latest forecasts show Florence lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from South Carolina to Virginia. Some areas could see as much as 40 inches of rain.

"This storm is big and it's vicious," North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on NBC's "Today" Show on Wednesday. "Flooding is a significant risk here and often when there is flooding the people who can afford it the least get hit the most."

The last hurricane rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people.

— Reuters.

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September 15, 1999: A US Navy rescue swimmer helps one of eight crew members from the ill-fated Gulf Majesty which sank in 30 foot seas off the coast of Florida, during Hurricane Floyd. Three men were plucked from the sea while four others were located in the tug's life raft. US Navy/Getty Images
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September 16: George Jenkins wades through high water after recovering some valuables from his submerged car near Wilmington, Delaware. Reuters
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September 16: Volunteer fire fighters help to evacuate a family near Wilmington, North Carolina, after Hurricane Floyd dropped an estimated 20 inches of rain. Steve Schaefer/AFP
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September 16: Mary Sue Mellon, a resident of Oak Island on the coast of North Carolina, surveys the damage done to a beachfront house by strong winds and the rising surf produced by Hurricane Floyd. Roberto Schmidt/AFP
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September 16: Housing Inspector John Starczynski makes his way through downed utility poles on North Topsail Beach on Topsail Island, North Carolina. John Althouse/AFP
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September 16: A man wades through waist-high water in Whiteville, North Carolina. Steve Schaefer/AFP
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September 16: A truck is driven through deep water in Whiteville, North Carolina. Steve Schaefer/AFP
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September 16: U.S. President Bill Clinton listens to a teleconference call with FEMA personnel. Clinton said $525 million to $528 million in new federal assistance would be provided to help recover from Hurricane Floyd, but also said the storm was not turning out to be as bad as had been feared. Mark Wilson/Reuters
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September 17: Michael Monetti and Bob O'Brien paddle Monetti's cat Meow-Meow to safety on flooded John Street in Bound Brook, New Jersey, after rains from Hurricane Floyd caused the Raritan River to overflow its banks and flood most of the town. Ray Stubblebine/Reuters
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September 17: Flood waters from Hurricane Floyd surround homes on a barrier island near Wilmington, NC. Steve Schaefer/AFP
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September 17: A home near Rocky Point, NC, is surrounded by flood waters. Steve Schaefer/AFP