LUMBERTON — The bad news: It could be weeks before Interstate 95 through Robeson County reopens to traffic.
The good news: Lumberton officials believe they have avoided a water crisis.
The bad news: The Lumber River is rising again, and some new areas of flooding could occur this weekend.
According to Andrew Barksdale, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, the “guess” is Oct. 10 for the reopening of Interstate 95. The highway, which was flooded during Florence and Hurricane Matthew, is the nation’s most traveled.
Barksdale said the river, which is rising again, is the problem.
”We can’t reopen I-95 in the Lumberton area until all of the floodwaters around the Lumber River have receded, and we can inspect for any damage and make repairs,” he said.
Meanwhile, the city of Lumberton has two more wells feeding its water plant, making a total of four out of eight. The plant’s river intake remains offline.
“We are feeling pretty comfortable,” City Manager Wayne Horne said, adding that some industries have been given permission to begin using water again.
Horne said the plant is now processing about 4 million gallons a day, and that about 3 million gallons a day are being consumed, allowing the city to fatten it reserves.
On Friday, the boil order for Robeson County water customers was lifted.
Robeson County remains under a curfew, but Lumberton has lifted its.
The Lumber River, which crested at just above a record 25 feet following the storm, had been receding, but is again on the rise.
”We are closely watching the river levels and do expect a second crest of the river over the weekend,” said Emily Jones, a public information officer with the county. “ Currently, as the water is moving downstream from the west, we are experiencing fast moving and quickly rising water over roadways. We are asking all residents to exercise extreme caution out on the roads. Also please do not move road closed barriers, or drive around them. Not only are you risking your life but the lives of other who might follow you and the emergency personnel who would need to rescue you.”
Robert Ivey, commander for Lumberton Rescue and EMS, said his unit has been making water rescues every day. On Monday, and 83-year-old Maxton man died when his car was washed into a sinkhole. It remains the county’s only know fatality from Florence.
Jones said 508 people have been evacuated from their homes, 510 structures are damaged, nine buildings had structural failures, and 31 buildings are labeled as destroyed.
She said the process of transferring control of the shelters to the American Red Cross has been completed. The number of people in the shelters continued to decline, and was at 686 Friday morning.
Most utility customers of Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation, Lumberton and Red Spring have power. On Thursday about 500 Duke Energy customers did not. An updated number on Duke Energy was not available.
Donnie Douglas can be reached at 910-416-5649 or [email protected]