And during the flood residents of Windsor made their home where the buffalo roam.
Billy Smithwick, chief of the Windsor Fire Department, said it is procedure for the town to release certain animals from the local zoo in the instance of a flood, such as bison, emus and ostriches because they cannot be kept in a pen for a prolonged period during flooding.
The zoo’s protocol is to release the animals into the town two days before any anticipated flooding, Smithwick said.
“They don’t bother anybody as long as nobody bothers them,” he said. “They won’t bother anybody — and we learned that that’s the best way to handle them — to just let them go.”
Smithwick said the animals never roam very far, and they are corralled back to the zoo with buckets of feed. He also said the locals in Windsor are used to these events because of the town’s susceptibility to flooding.
“We do it every time we get water — and we can get water in the zoo when we don’t get flooding in the downtown area,” he said.
According to a press release from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, 138 people were rescued from their homes and vehicles by a state deployed rescue team during the flooding.
McCrory visited Bertie County on Sept. 26 to assess the damage, joined by state and local officials. He met with residents to discuss the impact of the flooding and how the state can help.
“I’m extremely proud of the strength and resilience residents of northeastern North Carolina have shown in responding to this historic flood event,” McCrory said in the press release.
Smithwick said the flood had an economic impact on the businesses downtown.
“We were just getting our downtown really going, and now this,” he said.
Gary Lackmann, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences at N.C. State, said the meteorology of the flooding was interesting — and it was actually a result of Tropical Storm Julia.
He said because the system wasn’t named at the time, it was not as high-profile of a storm, which can affect relief and recuperation efforts.
“There are interesting societal implications there because when a storm has a name people tend to pay more attention to it,” Lackmann said.
Smithwick said a number of recuperation efforts are being implemented in the town, including attempts to dry waterlogged belongings as well as a request to the state for dump trucks to haul debris away.
“We’re all recovering well,” Smithwick said. “We’re gradually getting back to normal.”