Hurricane Floyd was so enormous it was called a “500 year flood” event — meaning there’s just a 1 in 500 chance of flood that big or bigger happening in a given year.
That was back in 1999, and North Carolina’s Neuse River got to an astonishing 27.7 feet back then.
This week, a mere 16 years later, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the river is even more flooded — a record-setting 28.3 feet.
“Floyd was supposed to be a 500 year event. And it’s happened again,” said Jerry Henderson, president of the Lenoir County SPCA.
The hurricane and subsequent flooding have been devastating to this community in eastern North Carolina. Three people are confirmed to have died. Hundreds of residents are in temporary shelters. Bridges and roads are closed, and the river hasn’t even reached its crest yet.
Through this, Henderson, his staff, and volunteers are doing all they can to keep the animals safe — those in the shelter now, and those who are likely to arrive in the coming weeks.
Usually, the shelter holds about 100 animals. That number is up to 120 now at the main shelter — a temporary shelter has also now been set up, on the other side of the impassable river.
Henderson expects there to be many more pets coming in, as the flooding begins to subside, and rescue crews and residents become mobile.
Some of these will be animals who can go up for adoption. Many of the newcomers are expected to be pets separated from their families during this natural disaster, who the shelter will keep and care for until they can be reunited.
Henderson is reaching out for help from national organizations, and other rescue groups who may be able to get some of the adoptable animals — rather than displaced pets — off to less-challenging parts of the country, once the roads are back open.
Locally, folks with boats and other volunteers will be helping, as well.
As far as what those of us who aren’t nearby can do: to put it bluntly, the shelter could also really use some financial donations right now.
“An influx of animals makes a tough situation worse. We are not a large shelter, and we operate with limited resources,” Henderson said. “We need money.”
No matter what, Henderson said he is committed to keeping these animals safe, and getting them back home where possible.
“They deserve it,” he said. “You have to look out for them the best you can.”
Here’s where you can donate to the Lenoir County SPCA.