WITN, Trent Court Housing Project, New Bern, N.C.

Poor southerners are joining the globe’s climate migrants - This is what climate catastrophe looks like.

NEW BERN, NC — Tyechia Buck and her 12-year-old son camped out on the second floor of her townhouse during last September's Hurricane Florence—at least at first. The storm surge Wednesday night was so big it flowed over the banks of the Neuse River before the rain even started here. The town slowly disappeared underwater, starting at the Trent Court housing projects, a small collection of brown brick townhouses.

By 11 o'clock Thursday morning she realized she'd made a mistake not evacuating: waves were lapping up against the building next to hers.

"I went out my back door and didn't look back," she said.

Since then she and her son have been staying wherever: with family, in and out of shelters, in a hotel, and finally back at the apartment in Trent Court. When she came back home, she said, "I turned my key, opened my door, and busted out crying." Her refrigerator was on its side, floating. Everything on the first floor of her two-story public housing unit was destroyed by more than four feet of floodwater.

Buck said she had never seen anything like it. Trent Court, where she was born and raised, is a squat collection of 1940's era brick buildings near where the Neuse River begins to widen into a sound and open up toward the Atlantic Ocean. The silty water overwhelmed Trent Court, and many other parts of New Bern and eastern North Carolina.

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