Florence, Sunday 11 am: ‘Never seen water rise that fast’

By: Chrysta Carroll and Alan Wooten - Bladen Journal
Contributed photo N.C. 210 near the Sampson County line was getting worse Sunday morning.
Contributed photo N.C. 210 near the Sampson County line was getting worse Sunday morning.
Contributed photo N.C. 210 near the Sampson County line was getting worse Sunday morning.
Contributed photo A fire truck was idled by conditions from Florence on Sunday morning in Bladenboro.

BLADENBORO — Charles Ray Peterson said he’s never seen it so bad here.

“I’ve never seen water rise that fast,” the Bladen County commissioner said Sunday morning at the emergency command center in Elizabethtown. “It’s bad.”

The county has been inundated by rainfall and flooding has begun in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, a Category 1 storm when it made landfall on Friday morning near Wrightsville Beach and one that has hung around between that point, Myrtle Beach and Columbia for the better part of nearly 48 hours. Elizabethtown had more than 20 inches of rain Saturday night at 6; it rained all night into Sunday morning.

“I wouldn’t be scared to say we did 200 rescues last night,” said Bradley Kinlaw, the county’s director of Emergency Management.

Commissioners Chairman Ray Britt said Sunday morning he expected the county to be declared a natural disaster later in the day.

Swift water rescue teams from Vermont were stationed in Bladenboro and Kelly ahead of the storm. An incident management team from Oklahoma is providing assistance to Kinlaw and his staff at the command center.

Deputies have come in from Alamance and Person counties to help the Sheriff’s Office already, and another eight will arrive Sunday afternoon. Some of those are from the Outer Banks. Additional telecommunicators from other counties are also expected in the afternoon.

Sheriff Jim McVicker said Saturday night he put in the request to the state sheriff’s association to help his staff, already weary from days of preparation and the playing out of a storm that has gone nowhere fast.

For much of Saturday, the National Weather Service tracked its movement at 2 mph — humans walk faster. Sunday it was up to 8 mph moving west across South Carolina’s upstate. It ranged about 350 to 400 miles wide, and while stationary continued to accumulate moisture from the Atlantic Ocean and dump it into eastern and southeastern North Carolina.

Flood levels for rivers throughout that region are expected to be worse than Floyd in 1999 and Matthew just two years ago.

Sunday morning, evacuations were ordered for residents in the communities of Kelly and Rowan near the Cape Fear River in the southern half of the county. Evacuations were ordered Saturday for residents in the vicinity of River Road, Burney Road, Tar Heel Ferry Road and along Harrison Creek near the Cape Fear in the northern half of the county.

The Cape Fear hit flood stage near the Huske lock, not far from Tar Heel and the Cumberland County line, and in Elizabethtown on Saturday night. It was expected to reach flood stage Sunday at the Kelly lock.

At one time, five shelters were open in the county and numbered about 1,000 with 60 pets. All lost power Friday. The number staying in the shelters dropped on Saturday, and Bladen Lakes Primary School was closed due to the threat of flooding.

Bladen County Hospital lost its generator power on Friday, forcing patients to be moved by Cape Fear Valley Health based in Fayetteville, its parent organization. By Saturday, the emergency room had returned to operations but those coming were limited to one person with them.

A nurse said some had come there just looking for a hot meal.

“People are really, really in bad trouble,” McVicker said.

Numerous roads were impassable throughout the county, so much so the county has failed to post an authoritative list throughout the storm, the changes too fast and frequent for them. Those blocked by fallen trees from Florence’s winds on Thursday and Friday often were cleared, at least partially, only to be blocked again on Saturday and Sunday by rising water.

Kelly said he was being told 5 to 7 more inches of rain was expected Sunday. Before the storm, the forecast was for Elizabethtown to get 26 inches and Riegelwood in the southeastern end of the county to get 30 inches.

The county is under curfew from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily until further notice. Bladen County Schools, so far, has canceled classes for Monday; students were last in session Tuesday.

Contributed photo
N.C. 210 near the Sampson County line was getting worse Sunday morning.
https://www.bladenjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_florence210SampsonBladen3.jpgContributed photo
N.C. 210 near the Sampson County line was getting worse Sunday morning.

Contributed photo
N.C. 210 near the Sampson County line was getting worse Sunday morning.
https://www.bladenjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_florence210SampsonBladen2.jpgContributed photo
N.C. 210 near the Sampson County line was getting worse Sunday morning.

Contributed photo
N.C. 210 near the Sampson County line was getting worse Sunday morning.
https://www.bladenjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_florence210SampsonBlden1.jpgContributed photo
N.C. 210 near the Sampson County line was getting worse Sunday morning.

Contributed photo
A fire truck was idled by conditions from Florence on Sunday morning in Bladenboro.
https://www.bladenjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_bladenborofiretruck.jpgContributed photo
A fire truck was idled by conditions from Florence on Sunday morning in Bladenboro.

Contributed photo
Near the heart of Bladenboro, the aftermath of Florence was leaving water everywhere. Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson said he had never seen water rise so fast in the Bladen County community.
https://www.bladenjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_bladenboroscene.jpgContributed photo
Near the heart of Bladenboro, the aftermath of Florence was leaving water everywhere. Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson said he had never seen water rise so fast in the Bladen County community.

Chrysta Carroll and Alan Wooten

Bladen Journal

Chrysta Carroll can be reached at 910-862-4163 or ccarroll@bladenjournal.com. Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or awooten@bladenjournal.com.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached at 910-862-4163 or ccarroll@bladenjournal.com. Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or awooten@bladenjournal.com.