The Lumber River has long been treasured, for centuries sustaining Native Americans and the European settlers who sought to build a community in North Carolina. Water from the 133-mile-long river fed fishermen, transported travelers and provided a natural bath for baptisms.
But the river has morphed into an invasive threat. Two years ago, when Hurricane Matthew hit, the Lumber spilled over its banks and into Lumberton's poorest neighborhoods, carrying away cars and washing out homes. Experts call it a 1,000-year flood. But just 23 months later — on Sept. 14 — Hurricane Florence's historic rains swelled the river again, further devastating the city.