Princeville leaders return to town for first time since flood

Mayor Bobbie Jones and a group of Princeville and Edgecombe County officials, escorted by the N.C. National Guard, crossed the Tar River from Tarboro back into their town Tuesday.

It was their first opportunity to get a look at flooded Princeville since they fled last week in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

The historic African-American town flooded again, as it did during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

“We are resilient people, and the greatest asset that we have are each other,” said Edgecombe County Commissioner Viola Harris.

She said the leaders make a similar walk across the bridge from Tarboro into Princeville for Martin Luther King celebrations in January. They sing “We Shall Overcome,” Harris said, adding that Princeville also will overcome this flooding.

First Sgt. Tim Ashley said the National Guard’s 875th Engineer Company has pumped more than 76 million gallons of water from Princeville into the Tar River using as many as six pumps running 24 hours per day since last Wednesday.

Assessment teams could begin evaluating Princeville as early as Wednesday to see whether it is safe to allow residents back to their homes. Currently no residents are in Princeville.

“We are just asking our citizens to be patient, to trust us,” said Mayor Pro Tem Linda Joyner. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and soon we’ll be back together in Princeville to rebuild.”

About 75 percent of Princeville flooded, said William Johnson, Edgecombe County’s assistant manager.

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