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‘We’re already left behind’: Following massive floods, Cruso residents getting frustrated

One of hundreds of piles of debris left on the side of the road in Cruso following the massive floodwaters two weeks ago. One of hundreds of piles of debris left on the side of the road in Cruso following the massive floodwaters two weeks ago. Garret K. Woodward

Standing next to a debris pile as tall as he is, Steve Chaney scans up and down U.S. 276 at the countless other debris piles, one for each home in Cruso that was ransacked by the devastating floodwaters two weeks ago. 

“Everybody has left us. Everybody is gone. All the disaster relief is gone,” Chaney said in a ruffled tone of frustration and anger. “People come by with paperwork for disaster relief and say they’ll be back to help the next day. Where are they? We’re already left behind.” 


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Steve Chaney.


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Situated up Hungry Creek Road, Chaney suffered some damage to his home. Busted spring. Flooded basement. Leaky roof. And so on. But, on Monday afternoon, he was down on U.S. 276 (aka: Cruso Road) to help his good buddy, 74-year-old Ronnie Hannah, clean up the low-lying property. 

“Ronnie had a stroke last year. He has trouble getting around. He’s lived all his life at this house. He’s alone and he has nobody to help get the mud out of the basement and make repairs to the house,” Chaney said. “Nobody is coming down to help him. No disaster relief whatsoever — just us neighbors looking out for each other, as we always do in times like this.” 

Emerging from Hannah’s basement are two other friends of his. The duo is covered in mud, scooping out five-gallon bucket after five-gallon bucket of the slick substance from down below the house. It’s an arduous process, where they never seem to make a dent in removing the elusive mud.

“This cleanup in Cruso is going to take months, probably years,” Chaney said. “All of these folks around here are on their own, sadly. Everyone outside of here thinks we’re all just a bunch of hillbillies and we’ll take care of it on our own. Well, we probably will end up doing it all ourselves because they done forgotten us in just two weeks.” 

With recent flood disasters also hitting Tennessee and Louisiana, Chaney, like many Cruso residents, wonders if their small mountain community is already in the rearview mirror — cast aside and swallowed up by the sands of time. 


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Idle equipment at the base of the mudslide on U.S. 276.


“The national media never got into Cruso to actually see how bad it was. They weren’t allowed in and all those folks up there in Washington, D.C., never knew the extent of the damage,” Chaney said. “The real story of how bad it is never got told. It’s horrible down here and there’s nobody around to hear our cries for help — we need help. Where’s our government?” 

Meandering through Cruso nowadays, there’s an eerie, somewhat deafening silence. Piles of debris like ice cream scoops of destruction line every single road and intersection. The smell of dried mud, freshly-sawed timber and waterlogged furniture going moldy permeates through the disaster area. 

That Ford Crown Victoria is still up a tree across from the Springdale Country Club. Crushed vehicles remain against trees, in ditches, and on the riverbanks. The now-infamous mobile home left in the middle of U.S. 276 by the flood is still there, just barely pushed to the side of the road. 

Crazily enough, the entire scene seems more depressing and hopeless now with everyone gone — a silence of the unknown overtaking the landscape and its inhabitants. 

The only sounds are that of the Pigeon River (now a babbling creek) and crickets in nearby farm fields. Construction vehicles at the site of the mudslide are idle and empty. Homes vacant. A ghost town of sorts in many sections, hence the ongoing curfew (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) to prevent looters. 


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A lone farm tractor lying in the Pigeon River.


U.S. 276 is up and running, as are phone and electrical lines. Swinging past the Cruso Fire & Rescue Station, there’s local fire department and North Carolina Department of Transportation folks scattered about. But, that’s about it. 

“The DOT, local fire and rescue, local churches and linemen? They did an incredible job getting us power back and the main road running again — can’t get no better,” Chaney said. “But, now what? They ain’t got FEMA in here. They ain’t got no help besides getting the roads done. Where’s FEMA? Where is this disaster relief we keep hearing about?”

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