NORTH CAROLINA -- Wednesday marks 21 years since Hurricane Floyd made landfall in North Carolina.


What You Need To Know

  • Floyd produced between 10 and 20 inches of rain in eastern North Carolina

  • The region had already been soaked about a week before by Tropical Storm Dennis

  • The extreme rainfall led to catastrohpic river flooding

For many residents of eastern North Carolina at the time, it was one of the worst storms to hit the region, but not because of the wind. Floyd produced 10 to 20 inches of rain in some locations.

Just about a week before Floyd, Tropical Storm Dennis soaked much of the same area with around five to 10 inches of rain.  Many rivers were already near flood stage before Floyd hit.

The extreme rainfall from Floyd then caused many rivers in eastern North Carolina to rise to historic levels. Nine record floods occurred on rivers in North Carolina and one in Virginia.

Flooding that lingered for days after Hurricane Floyd in Princeville, N.C. Photo By Dave Saville/FEMA News Photo.

One of the hardest hit locations was the small town of Princeville along the Tar River. A protective levee in the town broke in seven places sending the water levels up to 30 feet in Princeville. Sealed caskets floated out of graves in the towns cemetery.

Hurricane Floyd killed 56 people with 48 of the deaths attributed to drownings in fresh water flooding. In North Carolina, an estimated 17,000 homes became uninhabitable due to the flooding.   

Millions of livestock perished in Floyd's floodwaters. Nearly half of the state's soybean, peanut, cotton, sweet potato, and tobacco crop was lost.

Sewage treatment plants, farms, and cars were submerged in the flooding. That led to the water becoming contaminated with animal waste, fertilizers, pesticides, and gasoline.  

Aerial view of flooding in eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Floyd. Photo by J. Jordan of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Floyd was a category 2 storm when it came inland at Cape Fear, NC with 105 mph winds. A storm surge up to 10 feet damaged or destroyed several homes at Oak Island and Topsail Island.

The storm also produced a number of tornadoes in eastern North Carolina.

Since Hurricane Floyd, North Carolina has experienced similar river flooding after Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018.  Research studies by climate scientists suggest that our warming climate is leading to hurricanes that produce more extreme rainfall.