CANTON, N.C. — The mayor of Canton is reflecting on the lessons learned from historic flooding in 2004 and how it compares to Tuesday’s major flood.
What You Need To Know
Clean up continues in Canton after devastating floods caused by Tropical Depression Fred
Canton suffered major damage in 2004 after hurricanes Ivan and Francis
Mayor Zeb Smathers says what happened last week is worse than 2004
Two weeks ago, Mayor Zeb Smathers was mourning the loss of his brother-in-law at Pisgah Memorial Stadium.
“And I thought it can’t get much worse than this,” Smathers said. “Well, Mother Nature decided to throw us a curveball.”
Floods have since severely damaged the stadium, and Smathers is now overseeing a massive responsibility of rebuilding his community. He does so while juggling his law career and his family life.
“Ashley, my wife, has done an amazing job,” Smathers said. “Not only as a mother but also supporting us … she says you just got to keep going.”
The last time floodwaters caused this much destruction to Canton, Smathers’ dad was mayor.
“I was actually an undergrad [in college], and I did not get back up [to Canton] until fall break of that year,” Smathers said as he flipped through a binder of photos of the 2004 flood. “Going through this I see so many similarities between now and then.”
As he flipped through the photos at the Canton Area Historical Museum, he reflected on his dad’s leadership.
“I’ve leaned on my father,” Smathers said. “There’s a lot of lessons he learned in 2004 that we’ve been able to do — especially how quickly we need the declarations from the federal government.”
Tuesday’s flooding is the third natural disaster to hit Canton in 17 years, and Smathers believes it’s the worst flood yet.
“Structures that made it through two hurricanes in 2004 did not make it through this time,” Smathers said. “Simply because of the intensity of the water of this situation.”
Smathers says they’ve lost their town hall, police and fire department, among other buildings. Still, he’s hopeful that the community will pull through once again.
“I think it’s important as we tell the story of the 2021 floods that we tell the story of recovery and resilience,” Smathers said. “Because that is just as important, if not more important than the destruction.”
Smathers says they’re focusing a lot of their resources to help surrounding communities like Bethel and Cruso. Early estimates show Cruso alone suffered about $300 million worth of damage.