ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County Hospital has reopened to emergencies only, roads cleared of fallen trees are becoming victims of rising water and the impact of Florence is likely yet to reach it peak.
“Any low-lying home may be lost to localized flooding,” said Bradley Kinlaw, the director of Emergency Management for Bladen County.
The county devastated two years ago by Hurricane Matthew has taken a pounding from Florence, the Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall Friday that is barely crawling away in South Carolina as a tropical storm.
“Up around 210, Ivanhoe, I knew they were going to have problems there,” said Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker. “It’s county-wide. I thought it wouldn’t be as rough near Tar Heel, but it is. There’s shingles off, trees down — it’s county-wide.”
A curfew remains in effect for the county from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“If you don’t have to be outside, don’t,” McVicker said. “Make it easier for the people who do need to be out, to do what they need. Everything we’ve asked, the public has done it. And we’d like to keep it that way.”
At 8 a.m., the storm had stalled about 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach and had top sustained winds of 50 mph. It was moving 2 mph and was still about 350 miles wide.
The Associated Press reported four people dead; WRAL and other media outlets reported seven.
Interstates 95 and 40 were being impacted by flooding. More than 360 people were rescued in New Bern, where flooding downtown at times reach 10 feet deep in places.
“Trees and roadways are continuing to open up but we’re losing roadways to flood waters,” Kinlaw said.
The Cape Fear, South and Black rivers are all expected to see levels comparable to October 2016 when Matthew tore through the county. The storm’s peak closeness with the county was about 2 p.m. Friday and rain fell before, during and ever since. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning until 4 p.m. Saturday that was inclusive of all of Bladen County.
“We’re still anticipaing Matthew levels on the South and Black rivers, and the Cape Fear,” Kinlaw said.
The Cape Fear, at the Huske measuring station near the Cumberland County line, was just below 35 feet prior to the storm’s arrival Friday. By 9 a.m. Saturday, it had cleared 37 feet and showing a pattern of going up quickly. At the Elizabethtown station, the river was just over 14 feet before the storm arrived and was at nearly 18 feet Saturday morning, also rising rapidly.
Crests were expected late Monday or early Tuesday at the Huske point and on or about Wednesday in Elizabethtown.
Five shelters in the county held 943 individuals and about 60 animals late Friday.
Statewide, nearly 930,000 homes and businesses lost power. That number was expected to increase.
Morehead City received 23 inches of rain between the start of the storm and Friday night.
About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats. Several of them could be seen in and around Elizabethtown on Saturday morning.
The storm’s eventual path takes it west across South Carolina, with a swing up the Appalachian Mountains. Mudslides and mountain flooding are feared next week.
The Cape Fear River is expected to crest early in the week at the Huske measuring station.
The Cape Fear River is expected to crest on or near Wednesday at the Elizabethtown measuring station.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached at 910-862-7831 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or email@example.com.