LUMBERTON — Almost a week after Hurricane Matthew socked Robeson County, residents are trying to get back to normalcy — from making sure they have access to drinkable water to taking that first post-storm shower.
The Robesonian is working to contact Robeson County municipalities and will continue to update information as it is obtained on robesonian.com, The Robesonian’s Facebook page and on Twitter @The_Robesonian.
In Maxton, volunteers are feeding people who lost their refrigerated foods and still don’t have electricity to cook while they await meals and water from FEMA. Three Maxton-area fire departments have been designated as supply distribution points.
Brandon Oxendine, chief of Smiths Volunteer Fire Department, at 2906 Oxendine School Road, said volunteers there are cooking for about 200 people who can’t cook for themselves yet and delivering some dishes.
“We still have a lot of people without power and the water is still messed up. We’ve got a lot of roads and bridges that have damage, he said. “We’re trying to feed everybody — get them some hot meals.”
As of late Thursday afternoon, Oxendine said they had not yet received water and meals-ready-to-eat from FEMA.
“What little bit of water we can get, we’re trying to split it up so everybody can get at least some for a while,” Oxendine said. “We know that some of them can’t cook. They don’t have power and they still have water standing in their yards and driveways.”
A few houses in the Smiths Fire District were flooded by the overflow from the Lumber River, Oxendine said, but the water has mostly receded.
Oxendine said not long after road closure signs and cones were placed at a bridge on N.C. 71 North near the Campbell Soup plant on Monday, someone threw the signs in the Lumber River and drove through water, but were unharmed. The bridge was closed because water had been rushing through the middle of it, Oxendine said.
In Rowland, most people have had their power and water restored.
Police Chief John Reaves said many people are using a shelter at South Robeson High School. They are mostly people who went there from Lumberton when shelters started to fill up, he said.
Reaves said he believes the water that flooded parts of Rowland directly resulted from the downpours during the hurricane, not from river flooding. He said he’s never seen flooding like that in Rowland.
“We had water in places I’ve never seen it,” Reaves said. “I’ve never seen water on Main Street. On Canal Street where Dollar General and First Baptist are, I’ve never seen it run like a river there.”
By Sunday morning, he said water had already started to recede. Now, stores are re-opening.
“Our fire department people were the ones going out and transporting people who needed to get to shelters,” Reaves said. They’ve gone non-stop during the storm, after the storm. They’ve done a really, really good job.”
Scattered outages and flooding persist in St. Pauls, but the town manager says residents have food and water.
Several homes flooded near Calvary Baptist Church, according to J.R. Steigerwald, town manager. Just outside of town limits, North Chapel Street had a lot of flooding.
There are about 180 people at the shelter — about 100 are from Lumberton where shelters filled up quickly over the weekend, Steigerwald said.
“They’re not going anywhere anytime soon,” Steigerwald said.
Thanks to donations, occupants had clean clothes. Power and water are restored there.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever had a situation where you had to go four days without a shower, that first shower just makes you feel human again,” he said. “A lady across the street said, ‘Look, bring me some washing detergent. I’ll run my washer and dryer to run towels through so people can take showers.’”
Both Smithfield and Sanderson Farms donated ice, which the town was able to give to residents to take home, Steigerwald said.
Steigerwald said St. Pauls is in better shape than other towns in Robeson County. Nearby Parkton residents also have water and are no longer under a boil advisory as of Thursday.
“Quite honestly, I would focus efforts on Lumberton. We seem to have adequate food. We seem to have water and clothing,” he said.
The town’s sewer system is running on a generator and, like other towns hit by flooding, its sewer system has been inundated with water. The water supply and wells are functioning, he said, and Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton was sending tanker trucks to St. Pauls for fresh water.
“As long as two of our three wells are running, we’ll keep them in water,” he said.