LUMBERTON — Utilities are making progress toward restoring power to Robeson residents following the devastation of Hurricane Matthew.
Lumberton utilities began restoring power Tuesday evening in some of the city’s hardest areas. Red Springs was well toward restoring power to all of its 1,500 customers Tuesday evening and Lumbee River EMC had turned the lights back on in northern parts of the county.
Tuesday evening, power was restored to much of Lumberton, including parts of West Fifth Street, Kenny Biggs Road, Martin Luther King Drive and Sanchez Drive. Most rescue efforts have been concentrated in the Martin Luther King Drive area, with West Fifth Street also seeing some of the most severe flooding. Lights could also be seen on N.C. 211, along Fayetteville Road and in the Tanglewood area.
Electric Utilities Director Lamar Brayboy said next crews will work to restore power to North Lumberton, where most of the city’s hotels, stores, restaurants and gas stations are located.
The city serves about 10,000 utility customers.
Officials are hopeful they can redistribute the load accordingly to serve areas that would have been reached by a Water Street substation, where floodwaters from the swollen Lumber River remain high, although it is receding.
“If we can get some of those circuits to hold we can get some essential services up, like stores,” City Manager Wayne Horne said.
The Lumberton water plant is still shut down in a paradox of having too much water and too little water at the same time. The plant was without power Monday and shut down. Public Works Director Rob Armstrong said the floodwaters at the plant are too high to reach the facility now, but once the water recedes, the city has a large-scale pump on hand it can use to pump out remaining water inside the building. Restoring water will also take some time as water pressure in the system needs to build back up.
“We’re asking all our citizens to please be patient and unless there is a definite need to call in and ask about when power will be restored, please try not to do so because we need to leave our phone lines open,” said Public Services Director Linda Oxendine. “We have citizens that have been rescued and temporarily housed in shelters that family members throughout the United States are trying to locate and we want to reconnect these families.”
About 70 percent of the county’s 26,000 water customers had service this afternoon, when almost all were without on Monday.
Elsewhere in the county, 21,000 Duke Energy customers and 12,000 Lumbee River EMC customers are in the dark about when they will see the light.
Duke Energy, which says it has suffered “significant damage to our transmission system as well as our distribution system,” is estimating it can restore power to Robeson customers by 11:45 p.m. Sunday, an assessment that has remained unchanged since Monday. Across North Carolina, more than 824,500 Duke Energy customers have had their power restored.
Lumbee River EMC has been able to restore power to some customers in Robeson County, primarily north of Lumberton and St. Pauls. Most of the utility’s outages were attributed to damage to Duke Energy transmission lines. About 5,000 Lumbee River customers were brought back online Tuesday afternoon.
“Unfortunately Duke has not been able to give us any estimated restoration times on those substations,” spokesperson Walter White said in a Facebook update at noon Tuesday. “At this point in time I can’t get give you anything definite on when power may be coming back to the county at large.”
White said the utility has been able to “back-feed from other substations” in order to restore power around St. Pauls. Crews were working in that area as well as Saddletree, Rennert Road near McDuffie Crossing Road, and Hammonds Road, he said.