Nearly 200 people remained stranded in Red Cross shelters here Wednesday as the Neuse River swelled to historic heights and its feeder creeks sent a wall of water across the flooded city creating a crisis that’s far from over.
The Goldsboro Fire Department recorded 130 water rescues since Hurricane Matthew struck Saturday, five of them Wednesday as the Neuse held steady near 30 feet. The city remained under a 9 p.m. curfew as sinkholes threatened roadways.
“We’re just in the middle of this,” said Ken Dirksen, a spokesman with Wayne County Emergency Operations.
At Carver Heights Elementary School, Antoine Robinson has hunkered down on a cot in the gymnasium since Saturday, when he and his fiancée fled his ruined home, leaving their dog.
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“Water came in and didn’t stop,” said Robinson, 41, marking its level as chest-high.
On a cot nearby, Tina Brown tended to four of her six children, all of whom evacuated their home in Little Washington twice after the Little River rose in Matthew’s wake. She waited for news from the Goldsboro Housing Authority on where and when they might be relocated.
“I’ve lost everything I had for the last 13 years I’ve been there,” said Brown, 34. “I’m a single mom with six kids.”
In the neighborhoods around Jones Street, the curbs stood piled with wet sofas and carpets. Church parking lots were turned to swimming pools. The U.S. 70 bridge over the Little River was closed to traffic, as were many other major routes, but many cars ignored the orange cones and drove through the water. Many businesses salvaged their inventory using canoes.
On Ash Street, the Cloth Barn fabric store lost an estimated $500,000 in inventory when Stoney Creek – a waterway normally no wider than a drainage ditch – overflowed its banks. The family-owned store dates back 60 years and three generations, and earned the unlucky distinction of having been destroyed by two hurricanes: Matthew and Floyd.
“I’ve got insurance this time,” said Johnny Bridgers, who called the damage a 100 percent loss. “Last time, I didn’t. I don’t know. I think I’ll move.”
On Herman Street, more than 400 people stood in line for free pizza provided by Papa John’s, which had 12 franchises from Goldsboro and Louisville, Ky., prepare more than 1,000 pies by early afternoon. The line wound on for two blocks as flood victims waited for hours, sipping free ice water and trading hardship stories.
“We lost clothes and food and stuff,” said Cornellius Edwards, 37. “Water came in through the vents and got an inch or two deep.”
At the Red Cross shelters, where some occupants wore pajama bottoms, volunteers asked for clothes to outfit victims who fled without warning.
“Some didn’t have time to grab anything,” said Fontaine Swinson, shelter director, “and they were wet. We tried to wrap them in blankets.”
Meanwhile, the Neuse stood at 29.7 feet Wednesday afternoon – nearly a foot higher than its 1999 crest during Hurricane Floyd