LUMBERTON — As residents and emergency responders cope with widespread flooding in Hurricane Matthew’s wake, the Lumber River is receding — slowly.
There is no rain in the forecast for Robeson County, according to Stephen Keebler, National Weather Service meteorologist in Wilmington.
“It looks like it’s going to be dry for days,” Keebler said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Keebler said no additional upstream water flow appears to be threatening Lumberton and that the river will continue to slowly fall. Lumberton remained under a flood warning Wednesday morning.
“Everything runs toward the ocean. The rain was to the north so it’s slowly making its way to the coast,” Keebler said. “Tell all the folks to hang in there. It’s bad but in a couple of days as time goes on it will look a lot better.”
Hurricane Matthew dropped 12.47 inches of rain in Lumberton, with some higher rainfall totals throughout the county. The Lumber River was already at flood stage before Matthew’s arrival, causing the river west of Interstate 95 to spill over and pour through a railroad opening in the dike that protects much of the city from flooding. That portion of the river — by Luther Britt Park — is forecast to drop slowly, from a height of 24.39 feet on Tuesday to 21 feet on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. According to North Carolina Emergency Management, 528 buildings have been flooded by that portion of the river.
Gov. Pat McCrory emphasized Tuesday that life-threatening flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew is expected to continue affecting eastern and central North Carolina into the week.
“Yesterday I saw first-hand the very dangerous conditions that still exist for many people,” McCrory said. “I am extremely proud of our emergency responders on the local, state and federal level, and I am proud of our citizens who are helping each other. I urge people impacted by this storm to take all instructions from local officials. Do not go through standing water. Do not put our first responders at risk in an effort to save you.”
The greatest threat remains inland flooding that will continue into this week. The National Weather Service is forecasting major river flooding with potential record levels along the Neuse and Tar rivers. State officials are monitoring a number of topped or breaching dams in central and eastern counties.
Numerous major interstates and roads, as well as hundreds of secondary roads remain closed as a result of the flooding. Portions of Interstate 95 in Robeson County have reopened. As of Tuesday night, according to the Department of Transportation, northbound I-95 from exit 13 to 22 remains closed, while the stretch from exit 22 to 31 has reopened. N.C. 211 near Clyborn Church Road is closed in both directions; N.C. 41 at the Robeson/Bladen county line is closed in both directions; southbound N.C. 41 near Old Stage Road is closed; N.C. 71 in Maxton is closed in both directions; N.C. 72 near Contempora Drive and Lewis McNeill Road are closed in both directions; N.C. 904 near Affinity Road and Gerald Road in Fairmont are closed in both directions; Tar Heel Road near N.C. 41 is closed to both directions; Midway Road near McLeod Drive in Maxton is closed; and Harper’s Ferry Road near N.C. 710 in Pembroke is closed.
Officials have issued several mandatory evacuations in Kinston, Greenville, Princeville, in parts of Moore County near the Woodlake Dam area and in various parts of Lenoir County.