N. Carolina town hopes to rebound from storm
LUMBERTON, N.C. — A day after fleeing from the swollen Lumber River, the residents of this down-butnot-quite-out former mill town waded Wednesday into the swirling, tea-colored waters and filled jugs for something most of us take for granted: flushing their toilets.
“We still don’t have water or power in our house,” Caroline Kahn said as she sloshed through someone’s flooded front yard in a pair of flower-print boots. “So we need water for the necessities of life.”
About 1,200 residents had to be evacuated by boat dehydration, but is easily Unit in Haiti. “We should and plucked from their treatable if caught in time. act very quickly to contain roofs by helicopters as the
The Category 4 storm this, otherwise it could get river crested. Two of the that hit Oct. 4 has killed out of control.” state’s 19 fatalities occurred LES CAYES, Haiti — more than 500 people, acCholera is not the only in Robeson County, of Hurricane Matthew first cording to national emerhealth emergency in the which Lumberton is the took the home of Sonette gency officials, and the country. seat. Crownal in a town on wreckage it left behind has Krishnan and others Of all the towns affected Haiti’s southern coast. created the perfect condiwarn about malnutrition by Hurricane Matthew, this Then cholera came for her tions for spreading the wabecause of damage to crops city of 22,000 was among baby. ter-borne disease. and livestock, as well as the hardest hit and the least
The 25-year-old market Matthew sent rivers and fishing boats and gear, deable to absorb it. vendor and her family were outdoor latrines overflowpriving many of their liveli“It is just a heartbreak,” taking stock of their losses ing across the mountainous hoods in a country where said novelist Jill McCorkle, after the storm when she landscape. Cholera-conmore than half survive on a Lumberton native. She noticed that Peter James, t aminated water has less than $2 a day. and her husband, Tom 10 months old, was showleached into those drinking “The hurricane affected Rankin, drove southeast ing symptoms of a disease wells that weren’t ruined a population who was alfrom their home in Hillsthat health authorities say by Matthew’s storm surge. ready in fragile health, and borough, his pickup filled is surging in the wake of the Thousands of people it has made their condition with diapers and drinking storm. whose homes were ruined worse,” said Paul Brockwater. “It’s a very poor area
“When I saw the sympare sharing close quarters mann, director of Doctors anyway.” toms and knew what was with family and friends, the Without Borders’ mission Like so many early setreally going on, then I got kind of proximity amid in Haiti. “There is a very tlements, Lumberton descared,” Crownal said as poor sanitation that aids in long stretch of densely pended on the river for she cradled the boy in her transmission. Reports have populated coastline which survival. By the late 18th arms at a Les Cayes cholera been trickling in that the is at risk.” century, the town had betreatment center. disease is spiking. Cholera was unknown in come a trading center for
About 20 people, some The World Health OrHaiti until the fall of 2010. timber and related materilistlessals.fromthedisease,layganizationsaidatleast200Thediseasewasapparently on cots under a metal roof suspected cholera cases introduced by U.N. peaceBut it wasn’t timber that in the tropical heat. have been reported across keepers from Nepal, part of gave the river and town
Cholera is caused by southwest Haiti since Mata contingent of troops who their names. bacteria that produce sethew hit, and it has pledged had been rotating through To local Indians, it was vere diarrhea and is conto send 1 million doses of the country since 2004. not the Lumber but the tracted by drinking concholera vaccine to Haiti. Since then, cholera has Lumbee. taminated water or eating “It is not looking good,” killed roughly 10,000 peoPoet John Charles Mccontaminated food. It can said Dr. Unni Krishnan, ple and sickened more than Neill, a native of neighborlead to a rapid, agonizing director of Save the Chil800,000 in this country. ing Scotland County who death through complete dren’s Emergency Health grew up along the river, Storm survivors bathe and clean clothes this week in the southwestern part of Haiti. A business in Lumberton, a North Carolina city of 22,000, shows the effects Wednesday of Hurricane Matthew. said the name was from a local Indian word meaning “black water.”
Early European surveyors and settlers called it “Drowning Creek.”
In the 2011 book “Communities in Economic Crisis: Appalachia and the South,” Lumbee Indian activist Richard Regan drew a primal connection between his people and the waters upon which they live.
“Like the river, the Lumbees have a mystery, excitement and violence in their history; and like the river they persevere,” he said. “Our very identity is wrapped up in the river. The river gave us isolation to develop community identity. It gave us protection from our many enemies. It gave us spiritual power to sustain our bodies and souls.”
The historic downtown is dominated by the courthouse, attorneys’ offices and bail bondsmen. Oncegenteel department stores are now empty, and windows into vacant shops are dusty and barren.
The Lumberton Visitors Bureau site lists its location along Interstate 95 — and the four exits off it — as its key attraction.
“Lumberton is the midpoint between New York and Florida,” the site de- clares. “All hotels are visible from the interstate, making access easy for visitors.”
Lumberton served as the setting for director David Lynch’s 1986 neo-noir film “Blue Velvet.”
“The look of it was inspired by my childhood in Spokane, Wash.,” Lynch once told an interviewer. “There are many Lumbertons in America.”
Yet Lumberton and surrounding Robeson County had the highest violent crime rate in the state in 2014, the most recent year available, according to state data.
On Monday night, a state trooper shot and killed a man who allegedly confronted officers while holding a gun.
The city thought it was prepared for the storm. But no one expected more than a foot of rain in less than 24 hours, on top of heavy rains the week before, said Jim Walters, deputy director of public works.
McCorkle said the region has a “long tradition” of “coming together and sticking together.”
“I just have to be positive and believe that everything will come back,” she said. But “they are really going to need as much help as they can get from the outside — and people who care.”