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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Leslie Thorbs, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0589. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Flooding of Hurricane Floyd as rare natural disaster

Thorbs describes the aftermath of the flooding from Hurricane Floyd. When asked why he and his wife wanted to return to the land where they lost their home and all of their earthly possessions, Thorbs explains that the flooding was the worst they'd seen in their lifetimes and they didn't think it was likely that another flood of that magnitude would occur again.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Leslie Thorbs, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0589. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LEDA HARTMAN:
Can you tell me, even though the neighborhood had flooded so bad and it could flood again because it's so near the creek, why did y'all want to come back to this very spot?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, tell you the truth about it, we just figure that we wouldn't live to see the water get back in there any more.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's what you thought.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You thought that it's a rare thing [and] that it wouldn't happen again in your lifetime?
LESLIE THORBS:
That's what I was thinking.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Your wife, did you she think that too?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, my wife, she wanted to come back here. That's the reason we came back. If it had been on that road over there right at the creek, now I don't knowߞ[Interruption]. We might would've been in about like a lot of them did, but over here on this back streetߞ I've heard my wife's uncle saying back that was along before me and her got married that the water had been high enough behind the house to catch [unclear] pumps in it, but the water hadn't ever come up to the house. This is the first time. Some of them claim that it had been a hundred years. I know when my uncle died, my wife's uncle died, he was about close to eighty years old then, and he said he hadn't ever seen the water up to come up to nobody's house. Okay, I know I've been in this world ever since he died, and I haven't seen any water nowhere in the ditch even come up in the ditch from the creek. This was the first time. Now back here, I don't know if it was in the '70s or what the water got high enough to come up under the trestle down thereߞup on those cross ties. What happened, the water was blocked off across on the other side. You couldn't go across the bridge. You had to go up yonder and come down and come into Grifton. You couldn't come across this bridge now. I've seen the water that high, but I haven't seen the water come, it didn't come out of the creek. I was working down at the sewing factory. [interruption]
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you've seen other floods and other disasters but nothing likeߞ
LESLIE THORBS:
Nothing likeߞ
LEDA HARTMAN:
Floyd.
LESLIE THORBS:
Never seen anything like this one here. If I live to likeߞ I said Sunday I'll be seventy-eight years old, and I've been around here all my life. When I lived up on Kennedy farm we [unclear] and come to Grifton a lot, and I never have seen the water like this. My wife's uncle said he hadn't ever seen the water come up around his house then because the way the brick house was an old house plank house he said, but the water came up high enough down there in that ditch [unclear] coming up and down there. The people had caught some but not come up to the house. It's the first time the water has ever been like this. There was one fellow that stayed down in the little house by the ballpark. That's my cousin. When they came around getting the people out, he wouldn't go. His wife and family left. He said he wasn't going out until that morning. He didn't think that water was going to get all that high. He started out that morning and got right down there by that pine tree right over yonder, by that pine tree right in that sink, and the water came up over his truck. He had to get out and swim back down on the other side of my house. Then he got up. The water was so that he could walk back to his house, but the water was, he said, all around his waist and under his waist.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So he was lucky to be alive.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, he was. He really was. The lady right across thereߞthe first brick house when you get across here going back that way on the rightߞthey had to come in there and get them out that Friday morning on the boat because they didn't even know the water had gotten like that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So do you feel lucky to at least have gotten away with your lives?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
LEDA HARTMAN:
But what did you lose?
LESLIE THORBS:
What did I lose?
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did you lose?
LESLIE THORBS:
In my home?
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah.
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh, we lost everything we had. We lost everything.