As Hurricane — now “Tropical Storm” — Florence and its attendant wind and rain have battered North Carolina, CBS News reports that it has taken at least 14 lives.
Despite the storm downgrade, Florence is still causing major flooding. It may not be as violent as predicted, but it’s still dumping plenty of water on already-flooded areas of North and South Carolina.
“I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising,” Roy Cooper, governor of North Carolina, said, “and if you aren’t watching for them, you are risking your life.”
Good Samaritans have turned out in droves, small crews on smaller boats scouring neighborhoods for anyone who might need a lift to higher ground. In New Bern that included three young men who wished to remain anonymous.
One of their tag-alongs didn’t mind sharing his story. Robert Simmons Jr. had lived in the area for 40 years, and said he’d never seen it quite this bad.
He listed at least four hurricanes he’d been through before saying that this was worst his area had seen yet.
“Never seen it like this. Not right here in this area,” he said. “My grandma stayed on North Hills Drive, across the highway. And they flooded out. That was — I think that was Bertha, when she flooded out.”
Fortunately, Simmons’ house was intact and hadn’t suffered too much from the storm or the flooding. According to the News Observer, Simmons said the water stopped right at his front door.
Though he had decided to bail, his father — who was in the same house — decided to stay. Simmons expressed concern over that choice, but said he’d had to get himself out anyway.
“He wanted to wait it out. I didn’t want him to wait it out. Yeah. Didn’t want him to wait it out. Man, it’s bad,” he admitted.
Food and water weren’t the issue, and he said he’d had both and that those were “no problem.” The real problem? Staring at the neighborhood he once knew while it was in a state he’d never seen it in before.
“I just got tired. I’m ready to go.”
Meet Robert Simmons. He escaped his neighborhood with his kitten hugging his neck. Here’s the story behind this photo.https://t.co/1glAFEQVl2#HurricaneFlorence #hurricaneflorence2018 #kitten pic.twitter.com/nkTC3uIFdc
— The News & Observer (@newsobserver) September 15, 2018
But Simmons had managed to convince one small stowaway to make the trek to dry land with him. A tiny, damp tabby kitten was curled up around his neck inside the hood of his jacket.
The kitten eventually gained enough confidence to peek out, and then crawl out and sit on Simmons’ shoulder, holding on for dear life and making little kitten meows as they moved along.
“I feed him,” Simmons said. “I’m an animal lover. His momma was in there. But she’s a wild cat, so …”
Despite the ones that were left behind, Simmons knows his home was standing when he left it. And when asked what the kitten’s name was, his response was perfect: “Survivor.”
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