Robeson muncipalities stuggle in storm’s aftermath

LUMBERTON — The effects of Hurricane Matthew are being felt outside of hard hit areas in Lumberton, as municipalities work to provide needed supplies to residents and keep services running,

The Robesonian is working to contact Robeson County municipalities and will continue to update information as it is obtained on, The Robesonian’s Facebook page and on Twitter @The_Robesonian.

In Fairmont, streets are washed away and sewer systems have failed as motorists off the Iinterstate seek refuge in the small town. As of Wednesday, residents had running water and it was safe to drink.

“We’ve had people coming in South Carolina, from Florida, we’ve got people coming Columbus County and other places — all of them needing help,” Town Manager Katrina Tatum said. “We got water, supplies — anything we could get our hands on to help them.”

Tatum caught the ear of Gov. Pat McCrory before a press conference in Robeson County on Wednesday to deliver a disaster-recovery plan to him personally. Tatum urged to governor for help with utilities, supplies and evacuating residents afraid to leave their homes.

Residents who have been displaced can stay at Fairmont Fire Department at 421 S. Main St. Supplies are also being distributed there and can be dropped there. The town needs first aid supplies, toiletries, ice, non-perishable foods, diapers and wipes.

Happy Hill and Old Field neighborhoods were hardest hit as water got up to the windows in some houses. Morrow, Mitchell and Floyd street bridges in Fairmont are all breached and will have to either be abandoned or replaced, Tatum said. Brown and Dogwood streets are washed out, including a dam on Dogwood.

Trying to handle multiple sewer breaches caused the generator running the town’s wastewater system to overload and burn out. The generator was replaced.

“We’re trying to keep our 1.75 million gallon sewer plant afloat,” Tatum said. “We’re trying to keep it going. We’ve had to boat in diesel fuel to keep the plant going. Our public works and police have been working 24/7 to keep everything going.”

The town of Fair Bluff is one of Fairmont’s partners with its sewer system.

“We’ve been there with boats but we can’t even get in there to check our equipment,” Tatum said. “We easily, in terms of wastewater damage, have $1.5 million worth of damage. Our lift stations are inundated with water entry.”

In Pembroke, many residents now have power and water. Power has been restored to town hall, the wastewater treatment plant, Purnell Swett High School and parts of UNCP campus.

“There still continues to be flood damage. A lot of people can’t begin to assess the flood damage because the water levels are high,” said Tyler Thomas, town manager.

Supplies are being distributed at and can be dropped off at the Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department at 201 Main St. Toiletries, baby supplies and non-perishable foods are needed.

Thomas said areas near U.S. 74 are still severely flooded.

Even though much of the water had receded by Wednesday, there are some areas in water, particularly out of town limits.

“They are still seeing the effects of the rising Lumber River. A lot of other areas, if they didn’t flood initially, they are flooding now or they flooded yesterday in and around Harper’s Ferry Church to the Pine Lake Park area,” he said.

Lumbee River EMC and Duke Energy provide power to Pembroke residents.

Most Red Springs customers have power and water, although the main route from the town to Lumberton — N.C. 211 — is still closed due to flooding. Some Duke customers on the west side of town are still without power.

“The problem here is that we still have flooded homes in areas,” Mayor John McNeill said. “We have areas that flooded and we can’t get the water out of there until it has somewhere to go.”

McNeill said the town’s water system held strong and there is no need to boil water. Donations can be taken to town hall at 217 S. Main St. or to the Red Springs Community Building on Cross Street. There is a sinkhole on South Main Street.

“We need basic essentials, toilet paper, diapers. We need ice,” McNeill said. “People can’t get to a bank to get cash out and a lot of the grocery stores, service stations — some of those cannot take debit or credit cards. That’s basically what we’re working through.”

By Terri Ferguson Smith

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Sarah Willets contributed to this report.

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