City gets 5 inches; problems minor


First Posted: 1/15/2009

LUMBERTON -- Mother Nature didn't hit Robeson County with as much rain as she did other parts of the state, but weekend storms still created some minor problems in and around the Lumberton area.
Rainfall at the Lumberton Municipal Airport totaled 4.61 inches of rain during the weekend. The heaviest amounts fell Saturday, when there was 3.79 inches of rain, said Dave Loewenthal, a weather technician with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
“Over the last six days, Robeson County really hasn't received as much as some of the other counties,” said Loewenthal. “On average, the majority of the county got somewhere around an inch and 1.5 inches. Lumberton airport got quite a bit, but it was kind of isolated. Most of the county didn't get all that much.”
So far this year, the National Weather Service has reported 39.7 inches of rain for Robeson county, about 9 inches more than average at this point of the year. While farmers think the added rainfall is a welcome change from last year's drought conditions, the extra rain can still cause problems.
“The biggest impact right now is in relation to tobacco,” said Everett Davis, director of Robeson County Cooperative Extension Service. “The tobacco harvest is going on right now and the excessive rain has caused some tobacco to drown. It's not an extensive problem because most farmers plan well-drained fields.”
Davis said the real problem posed by the water-logged tobacco fields is that harvesting equipment can't go through without damaging the field.
“They have to mess up the field or try to hand harvest, but that gets expensive,” Davis said.
Davis said the rain can also leach nitrogen out of the soil into the groundwater, which can damage tobacco crops.
“Tobacco is probably going to end up a little lower quality,” Davis said. “But most of the other crops look reasonably well. There are some problems with low-lying areas, but it looks like we'll have exceptionally good corn, soybean and probably even cotton. Even with the rain, most farmers will probably agree with me this is better than last year.”
Despite all the stormy weather, there were few power outages. In Lumberton there were about 150 homes without power between 2:30 and 3 p.m. on Sunday. According to Sharon Hunt, assistant to the city manager, the outages were located around Rowland Avenue, between 19th Street and Southeastern Regional Medical Center.
There were no power outages reported by Progress Energy this weekend. Calls to Lumbee River Electric Membership Corp. were not returned before deadline this morning. Some streets around the city received minor flooding, but none that created any extended traffic problems.
At Pinecrest Country Club, the rain forced 80 golfers in the annual Member-Member Tournament to put away their clubs on Sunday. Superintendent Chris Jackson said the club got about 1.5 inches of rain. That came after 2.5 inches of rain on Saturday had saturated the course.
Loewenthal said Robeson County can look forward to a more normal summer thunderstorm pattern beginning Wednesday. The Lumber River, which was at 13.95 feet this morning, was expected to crest at 14.9 feet around 8 a.m. Wednesday. The river's flood level is 13 feet.

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