Mayor expects town to bounce back in the New Year after devastating flooding in North Carolina

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— Many are making resolutions for the New Year. Few will be bigger than the Town of Canton. It’s resolved to rebuild after last summer’s flooding.

The flood disrupted so many lives in and around Canton, even the Pisgah Memorial football field remains damaged to this day. But Mayor Zeb Smathers says in the new year, he expects full recovery and victory.

Smathers is the first to say it’s been a tough 2021.

“There are people in Haywood County and throughout Western North Carolina, whether it’s because of natural causes, COVID, there are a lot of people that had that empty chair at Christmas this year,” the mayor says.

Rain from Tropical Storm Fred swamped Canton, Cruso, Bethel and Lake Logan in August.

“Many businesses, homes have recoveredfor manyhave not,” says Smathers.

“We did have just an outpouring of community support,” says Tiffany Gibson, General Manager of Bearwaters Brewing in Canton, one of the first businesses to reopen.

“Looking forward, all we can do is hope and pray for no pandemics and no natural disasters,” she says.

Some town buildings in Canton are still in limbo.

“We still don’t have a town hall, police department, fire department, a permanent place to call home,” says Smathers.

Federal, state and local assistance has come in, but Smathers says he’ll continue fighting with trips to Raleigh and Washington for more help.

Flooding in Canton at Kasey Riddle's farm

“We will lobby. We will discuss and make sure that our people in our county, in our town, have every bit of resources and money they need to rebuild how they choose,” he says.

The biggest motivation, Smathers says, is local.

“When I look at the families that have lost everything, their homes, family members, the ability for them to rebuild and continue, that gives us inspiration,” he says.

In the wake of tragedy, political leadership, he says, is taking a unified approach.

“Once you see it you know it exists,” says Smathers.

His resolution for the new year is everyone working together for Canton’s repair, something to celebrate in time for the 100th anniversary of the county clash: the Canton versus Waynesville game in October.

“I can’t think of a better event to bring everybody together to say that we’re back.”

Smathers says with the grit and grace Canton is known for, his town will survive and thrive again.

“The belief in each other and what we can do together, that’s going to get us into next year and I truly, truly believe that ’22 is going to be a great year for Haywood County,” he says.

At Bearwaters they’re raising a glass.

“Cheers to the New Year,” says Gibson.

Smathers says he expects this stadium to be filled with enthusiasm and the energy of renewal when the county clash game is played next fall.