LUMBERTON — The state senator for Robeson County in a Facebook post today said the potential exists in Robeson County for the same type flooding that occurred during Hurricane Matthew.
Danny Britt, a Republican who represents District 13, which includes all of Robeson and Columbus counties, said he had spoken with Mike Sprayberry, director of North Carolina Emergency Management, who said the county could receive as many as 40 inches of rain through Saturday. Most estimates for Robeson County during Matthew were that the county received about 18 inches of rain, but that was in a single day.
Matthew, which hit on Oct. 8, 2016, caused damage to thousands of homes and businesses and displaced thousands of people.
”If your home was flooded during Matthew, I would recommend leaving if and when it is safe,’ Britt said.
There are five county shelters established, but one, Lumberton High School, is at capacity. There is room at South Robeson, St. Pauls, Purnell Swett high schools, and Fairmont Middle School. The shelters are being operated by the Red Cross.
“In the line of support the state Emergency Management Office has generators, aviation assets and thousands of National Guardsman staged and on standby,” Britt said. “Once the winds subside some of the National Guard assets will begin to move in place here in Robeson and in Columbus. Some of the National Guard assets are already located in Robeson County. Many of these requests were made by the county as far back as Tuesday but they were told none would be assigned until they assigned them by priority.”
Lumberton experienced the worst of the flooding during Matthew, and its water plant was swamped. Plans are to place a berm around it, but that has not happened yet. City officials this week did put a makeshift berm around it and also pumped water from the levee in anticipation of heavy rains.
The forecast for Florence changed in recent days to more rain than wind, flipping from what had been predicted from before, when some estimates were for as little as 5 to 7 inches of rain.
A big difference working in favor of the city and county is that the Lumber River was already at flood stage, 13 feet, when Matthew hit and was at 7 feet on Tuesday. A graphic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday showed the river cresting at about 20 feet on Sunday. The river reached about 23 feet during Matthew.
Britt in his email also said city officials worked deep into the night Thursday “to fix an issue” at the Interstate 95 and CSX intersection off West Fifth Street where much of the flooding occurred during Mathew. He did not provide details but said he would provide an update when information is available.