Jess White quickly made a plan.
Clean out the garage because that would flood first. Move the grill and the trailer out of the backyard because it was filling with brown water. Then walk through the Busbee Street house, the one his mother left him when she died four years ago, and choose among his possessions. What can’t he afford to replace? What can’t be replaced at all?
“I’m getting ready to lose every damn thing I’ve got,” the 42-year-old fishing apparel maker said. “I don’t know where to start. I’m lost.”
Sunday’s downpour, the last deluge from Hurricane Florence, sent Conway’s streams and creeks gushing into homes along the Long Avenue corridor. On Monday morning, a helicopter flew overhead as the National Guard went door to door, boating out those who needed help evacuating their homes.
One of those people was Kristi Updegraff’s mother-in-law. Updegraff plans to remain in her home, but she said her mother-in-law is elderly and uses an oxygen tank. She needed to get out.
The water rose quickly in the neighborhood.
“You could actually see our sidewalk this morning,” Updegraff said. “Now you can’t. You could see grass this morning. I don’t know where the grass is now.”
Updegraff has lived on Woody Lane for decades. Her home flooded after Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and again in 2015 and 2016. Still, she has no plans to leave.
Her next door neighbor, Erin Hall, just moved in nine days ago. She put out 40 sandbags and watched her yard until 1 a.m., fearing the heavy rains might invade her home. All was clear when she went to bed.
Her 11-year-old son awoke her to break the news. There was a foot of water in the family room.
As she took photos of the water surrounding her house, she pointed out the home she just left in another part of the city is dry. She moved here because she loved the neighborhood.
“It’s a great house,” she said.
Over on Busbee Street, White walked past boxes of duck decoys and deer heads. He packed up his fishing poles, stopping briefly to kill a snake that was seeking shelter in the house.
A man who understands the river, White expects the water might retreat for a little while, but when the surge from Florence’s North Carolina load makes its way downstream, his home will likely be inundated.
“This is where I grew up,” he said. “And it’s all going to be taken.”