But, school buses and clean blackboards signaled a return to order for 8,000 students across Edgecombe County as educators readied to hold classes for the first time since Hurricane Floyd hit three weeks ago. Volunteers worked through the weekend to get the public schools ready.
Officials say they don't know how many students are going to attend however, as many of the students are still staying in shelters or with family members who are out of town.
The flooding has also led to a boom in North CarolinaÂ's insect population. And with the recent encephalitis scare in New York, health officials are taking action.
"It's a big concern down here with the West Nile virus that killed five people up in New York. Folks have that concern," says Stephanie Bourland of CBS affiliate WFMY in Greensboro. "In North Carolina, standing water throughout the stateÂ…just breeds mosquitoes. So starting [Monday], they're going to start spraying aerially about three million acres that will cost about $1 million."
Gov. Jim Hunt was in Washington last week to lobby for federal funds to help rebuild in Princeville and neighboring counties.
"We can have a better and more prosperous eastern North Carolina," Hunt said Friday. "I am intrigued by the idea of a Marshall Plan for the region. There can be a silver lining if we get enough resources to help us come back."
The residents of Princeville, where every business and church and half the town's 800 homes were destroyed, is just hoping for the best.
"With God's help, and the federal government, we'll come back. There will be great improvement," said George Harrison, a Princeville resident who lost two homes and a car to the Tar River.
There is much work to be done:
Millions of dollars in federal loans and grants will be needed to help residents move into homes on higher ground; many roads and bridges in need of repair before the hurricane will be rebuilt to 21st-century standards; animal-waste lagoons will need to be moved away from flood plains to prevent spills; water and sewer systems will need to be repaired and some moved away from rivers and streams.
The counties hardest hit by the hurricane, Edgecombe, Lenoir, Duplin, Pitt and Jones, rank among the state's poorest.
In Edgecombe, home to Princeville and Tarboro, roughly one in five residents lives in poverty and less than 60 percent of the population graduated from high school. The economic growth rate here is one-fifth the state average.
Almost 40 percent of Edgecombe County was covered by floodwaters. Princeville lost all 33 of its businesses, in addition to three churches and the town's water and sewer treatment plants.
"We can't do anything but rebuild," Mayor Delia Perkins said. "We still have big plans. Tey've just been put on hold. The town is still historical. The water cannot wash that away. It's still home."
The town of 1,900 was founded at the end of the Civil War by newly freed slaves. It is said to be the oldest town in the United States chartered by blacks.
Disaster experts are focusing on ways to avoid repeat losses in the floodplains. Emergency and environmental officials say Hurricane Floyd offers a rare opportunity to remedy the mistakes of the past.
After Hurricane Fran in 1996, the state was criticized for allowing families to rebuild in disaster-prone locations.
Once the disaster is under control, federal authorities will give the state money to help prevent future losses. This mitigation money is based on a percentage of the storm's total damage costs.
The project worked in Kinston after Fran, when FEMA purchased 79 homes that are now waiting to be demolished. Though the homes were flooded by Floyd, this time there was no financial loss.