LUMBERTON — Hermine has been downgraded to a tropical storm after making landfall in Florida as a hurricane, but is still expected to dump as many as 7 inches of rain in Robeson County and has already caused some disruptions locally.
Although Robeson was not under a tropical storm warning this morning, several surrounding counties, including Bladen and Columbus were. A flash flood watch is in effect through 8 a.m. Saturday for Robeson County and a wind advisory is in effect from noon today until 6 a.m. Saturday.
Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in 33 North Carolina counties on Friday, including Robeson.
The threat of inclement weather prompted the Public School of Robeson County to announce Thursday evening that schools will dismiss at 1:30 this afternoon. Several Friday football games had already been rescheduled for Thursday night in light of the forecast. Today’ssports events have been postponded.
As of 8 this morning, classes at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Robeson Community College had not been affected.
According to a 6:30 a.m. storm update from the National Weather Service, flooding is the biggest threat to Southeastern North Carolina as Hermine passes over this evening.
Maximum wind speeds in Robeson today could reach 24 mph and 45 mph tonight. By 2 p.m. Saturday, parts of Robeson County could see as much as 7 inches of rain, with lower rainfall totals in the far west portion of the county. The rain is expected to come to an end Saturday morning, making way for sunshine on Sunday.
Along with rain and wind, Hermine brings a slight risk for tornadoes this afternoon and evening.
“Overnight tonight is when it’s going to be the windiest,” Evan Duffey, cmeteorologist, said. “Going forward there’s still going to be the opportunity for some (tornadoes) but it is more confined to the coast than it is for you. As thunderstorms come on shore, that helps create a little bit of spin and that helps those tornadoes to spin up. Now, most tornadoes associated with a tropical storm system are weak and short-lived but, obviously, a tornado is still a tornado. It’s something to keep in mind.”
Around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Eddie Fields was working to get his crops in ahead of the rain at a 40-acre cornfield near Tar Heel. Fields said he expected to be out for at least two more hours. He said he had nearly finished harvesting a total of about 400 acres of corn.
“We’ve been harvesting day and night,” Fields said.
A combine harvester brought in corn from the fields and poured it into the back of a truck trailer, which Fields then drove to a grain bin.
Duffey advised residents to stay inside until Saturday, when Hermine moves on.
“After today, most people will be off for the weekend which means they can stay inside, break out the movies and do whatever you can do inside to entertain yourselves,” Duffey said. “Don’t go outside. Don’t drive around.”
Duke Energy was planning to move additional crews and equipment to the eastern part of North Carolina and South Carolina this morning. Duke Energy customers in Robeson County who experience an outage can report it by texting OUT to 57801 or calling 800-419-6356.
Lumbee River Electrical Membership Corporation says it is “closely watching” the storm.
“We are making plans to ensure we are ready to respond to any storm related outages that could come our way,” a post on the utility’s Facebook reads. Lumbee River can be reached at 910-843-4131.
Utility customers with the city of Lumberton can report outages by calling 910-671-3865.
“What we’re concerned about is trees and tree limbs,” said Lumberton City Manager Wayne Horne.
Horne said Electrical Utilities workers are on standby through the night in case out outages.
“Public Works and other departments are going to back them up in terms of clearing debris,” he said.
Duffey advised that anyone with plans to travel to the Outer Banks for the holiday weekend cancel.
“The Outer Banks are not going to be safe for the majority of the weekend,” Duffey said.
At 8 this morning, Hermine was located about 360 miles southwest of Wilmington and about 290 miles southwest of Myrtle Beach. After passing over Florida today, the storm’s maximum sustained winds decreased to about 60 mph. Then a Category 1 hurricane, Hermine was the first hurricane to hit Florida in more than a decade, according to the Associated Press.
Robeson residents can sign up for emergency CodeRED notifications via the city or the county’s website. The state also has an emergency alert app called ReadyNC. Residents should avoid driving into flood waters and stay away from downed power lines.
The Red Cross advises that residents in the path of a severe storm make an emergency preparedness kit containing: a three-day supply of water — one gallon per person per day; a three-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food; flashlight; battery-powered or hand-crank radio; extra batteries; first aid kit; a seven-day supply of medications and medical items; multi-purpose tool; sanitation and personal hygiene items; copies of important documents such as a list of medications someone takes and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies; cell phone with chargers; family and emergency contact information; extra cash; emergency blanket; and maps of the area.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared an emergency in 51 counties as 6,000 National Guardsmen were poised to mobilize for the storm’s aftermath.
According to the Associated Press, projected storm surges of up to 12 feet menaced a wide swath of the coast and an expected drenching of up to 10 inches of rain carried the danger of flooding along the storm’s path over land, including the state capital Tallahassee, which hadn’t been hit by a hurricane since Kate in 1985.
In Tallahassee, high winds knocked trees onto several houses, injuring residents inside, fire-rescue spokesman Mike Bellamy said. He said an unknown number were taken to area hospitals with injuries that weren’t thought to be life-threatening. Bellamy said his agency responded to more than 300 calls overnight. Mayor Andrew Gillum estimated as many as 100,000 area residents were without electricity Friday morning.
At Florida’s Keaton Beach, just south of the state’s Big Bend where the peninsula meets the Panhandle, about two dozen people waited on a road just after sunrise today trying to get to their homes. Police had the road blocked because of flooding.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865. Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets. Associated Press writers Josh Replogle, Brendan Farrington, Freida Frisaro, Curt Anderson, Terry Spencer, Jason Dearen and Gary Fineout contributed to this report.