LUMBERTON — More than a thousand customers are still without power after a thunderstorm toting wind gusts as strong as 46 mph downed trees and utility lines Tuesday night causing major disruptions throughout Robeson County.
Reid Hawkins, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, said there was heavy rainfall in the extreme northwest corner of the county, with about 3 to 4 inches falling around St. Pauls and Red Springs and closer to an inch falling in Lumberton.
Lights flickered at the Central Office of the Public Schools of Robeson County during a school board meeting as sparks shot out from a nearby transformer. This morning, Lumberton roads were littered with branches, part of N.C. 72 was closed and fallen trees lined Interstate 95.
The Robesonian lost power Tuesday night for almost three hours, disrupting production of multiple newspapers that are owned by its parent company, Civitas Media.
The Robesonian was unable to contact Emergency Services or the state Highway Patrol, but was unaware of any injuries associated with the storm.
Most of the storm’s damage was inflicted from 9 to 10 p.m.
“We had a wind gust report of 46 mph at the airport, and a report of wind damage that hit Phillips Mobile Home Park,” Hawkins said. The mobile home park is located near T&P Road in Lumberton.
Hawkins also had a report of wind damage in Lone Oak Mobile Home Park in Lumberton, where a large pine tree went down on Eastwood Terrace.
N.C. 72 near Old Whiteville Road was closed in both directions this morning. According to the Department of Transportation website, a tree was blocking the road, but Gene McKethan, maintenance manager for DOT in Robeson County, said it was a downed power line that forced the closure.
“There may be a downed tree there but the closure is due to power lines down across the road. Duke Power is there getting the lines back in the air as we speak,” McKethan said.
Motorists are being asked to detour around the area using Hestertown Road.
McKethan said local fire departments will likely handle minor downed trees throughout the county.
“If the trees are small enough the fire departments just take and cut them up with chainsaws,” he said. “If they are too large for the departments to handle, they call us and we remove the trees.”
As of this morning, 960 customers with Duke Energy were still without power. The outages were scattered throughout the county, with the highest concentration in Lumberton. Total, 3,826 Duke Energy customers lost power, with a peak of 2,300 in the dark around 11 p.m.
Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation showed seven Robeson County customers without power this morning. At midnight, the utility reported about 2,800 Robeson customers were experiencing outages.
“Four of the five circuits out of our North Lumberton substation are out due primarily to lightning strikes,” the utility posted on Facebook.
Lumberton Electric Utilities Director Lamar Brayboy said as many as 1,500 customers with the city were without power Tuesday night.
“Then after we got everything back on we still had about 100 customers out last night. Right now, we may have about 50 still out, mostly residential and just a few commercial,” he said.
He said there are still a few scattered outages, including an outage on N.C. 211 West beside AgriSupply due to trees downed by the storm. The city’s Public Works Department was experiencing telephone issues as a result of the storm.
A slight chance of thunderstorms will persist throughout the day, with showers, strong winds and lightning possible through about 4 p.m. But Robeson should have a chance to dry out soon as forecast for the rest of the week call for mostly sunny skies.
Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 and Juanita Lagrone at 910-416-5865.