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From Canton To Cruso: Volunteers Lend A Helping Hand After Flooding

Tuesday’s flash flood in Haywood County left business and homes mired in mud and debris. Here’s what the damage looks like on the ground:

The water of the Pigeon River pushed into the Canton and Cruso areas so high – that it’s still too early for a full assessment of the damage.

Muddy volunteers gathered at Bear Waters Brewing Company in downtown. Shaun Sandefur’s father Kevin is the owner of the brewery.

“It was pretty disheartening to see over a decade of hard work and my dad’s dreams be literally washed away,” said Sandefur.  He’s 22 years old and has worked a number of jobs at the brewery.

The brewery’s patio was damaged in the flood and after 2 feet of water made its way inside. Sandefur says his dad’s experience as a contractor been crucial as they clean up the property.

“I remember running around as a little kid while he was building this place literally with his own two hands,” said Sandefur.  

He says he knows a number of people along the river who have experienced incredible loss.

Sandefur says there has been an outpouring of support from the community to help rebuild.

“Eighty percent of these people I don’t even know. They just showed up to help and they are getting down and getting dirty and they’re getting muddy and it’s just so cool to see the community help us out,” said Sandefur.  

Credit Lilly Knoepp
Crews work to clean up a home near the Cruso Fire and Rescue Station.

Twelve miles up the road at the Cruso Community Center, volunteers from across the country work to get supplies to people who have lost everything in this disaster.

Tim Henson is the chief of Cruso Fire and Rescue. He says his community has been devastated by this storm. 

“We’re doing the best we can. We appreciate the help coming in and we can continue to use help and all of the prayers that we can get,” said Henson.  

Near the fire station swift water rescue boats from across the state were searching the Pigeon River - which is still rushing with muddy white caps. There are still seven people unaccounted for down from over 30 earlier in the week. 

Credit Lilly Knoepp
A crew with a search raft emerging from the Pigeon River.

Tony Cope is a Captain with the Haywood County Sheriff’s office. He’s been bringing supplies to those in Cruso who stayed and rescuing those who need to get out. Only residents and volunteers are allowed up the road beyond the fire department because of damage and debris.

“The short time frame that this happened. They didn’t get a chance to start moving until it was just about too late," said Cope.  

The two people in Cruso who died in the flood have been identified: Frank Mungo, 86, and Franklin McKenzie, 68. There are still seven people unaccounted. 

Update 4:30 p.m.: Haywood County Emergency Services has confirmed that additional victims of the flooding from Tropical Storm Fred have been located and recovered. 

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.