Fair Bluff is a small North Carolina town in an idyllic setting, amid cornfields and tobacco fields and alongside the verdant Lumber River. But Fair Bluff’s setting may also be dooming the town.
Like much of eastern North Carolina, it sits on a coastal plain, one that is increasingly vulnerable to flooding because of the rise in extreme rainfall and severe hurricanes spurred by climate change.
Almost five years ago, Hurricane Matthew flooded downtown Fair Bluff with four feet of water, buckling roads and destroying buildings. Three years ago, Hurricane Florence brought more flooding.
This summer, my colleague Christopher Flavelle traveled to Fair Bluff to see how it was recovering, and the answer is: not well. The high school, the grocery store and other shops never reopened after Matthew. Downtown storefronts sit vacant, with trash strewn about. The only local factory closed, too. The population, about 1,000, fell by half. Al Leonard, a town official, says the town may soon eliminate the police department — as well as his job.