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Rocky Mount declares state of emergency due to extreme flooding

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ROCKY MOUNT — Mayor Sandy Roberson declared a state of emergency late last week due to widespread flooding.

Using a combination of boats and high-clearance trucks, the Rocky Mount Fire Department helped nearly 100 people and four pets evacuate 75 flooded homes. About 20 commercial buildings in town were also affected by heavy rainfall and rising river waters.

Local emergency management officials are still urging motorists to drive around flooded roads and obey detours.

Flooding caused damage and property damage in parts of the city, especially in low-lying areas.

While some waters receded quickly, Sunset Park and neighborhoods along the Tar River remained partially submerged over the weekend as more rain fell Saturday.

Water rescue teams from the fire department put new state-provided equipment into action, rescuing people stranded in their homes and vehicles.

“We are grateful for our first responders who rescued people during these floods and brought them to safety. Having the right equipment to do the job saves lives,” Gov. Roy Cooper’s spokesman Ford Porter said.

More than $2 million in search and rescue funding was included in Cooper’s 2019 budget and appropriated by the legislature.

The Rocky Mount Fire Department received two inflatable swift water rescue boats and motors valued at $55,000 as part of $1.4 million in new gear distributed to water rescue teams across the state.

The investment in local water rescue teams last July made the state as a whole more prepared, said N.C. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. 

“The Rocky Mount Fire Department was able to respond and assist its residents this week, and those of surrounding communities, without needing to wait for help from elsewhere,” Sprayberry said.

The state resources provided to Rocky Mount’s swift water team proved to be especially valuable last week and played a key role in the team’s ability to assist residents, said Charles Bunn, battalion chief of operations and Swiftwater Emergency Rescue Team member at the Rocky Mount Fire Department.

“We are grateful for these resources that have allowed us to fulfill our mission of serving the city of Rocky Mount by protecting lives and property through quality and excellence in service,” Bunn said.

The Tar River reached its third highest measurement in history Thursday. The river has only been that high in September 1999 in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd and October 2016 after Hurricane Matthew, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.