LUMBERTON — City officials are denying reports that the levee near West Fifth Street in Lumberton has breached or failed from the heavy rains of Hurricane Matthew.
Gov. Pat McCrory in several news conferences has said the levee, which is by Luther Britt Park near Interstate 95, failed. Lumberton Mayor Bruce Davis and Robeson County Emergency Management say that is not the case.
“It looks like the levee broke but it did not,” Davis said. Water passed through the levee where it is bisected by railroad tracks because there is no dam there, causing water to accumulate on either side of the levee.
Still, water is high in in South Lumberton, the hardest hit part of the city, and residents are being evacuated.
Kellie Blue, a finance officer for the county who is working as a spokesperson in the storm’s aftermath, said that McCrory’s office has sent in four swift-water rescue teams that were rescuing people across the county Monday and today from their homes. She said in addition to that, helicopters continue to hover over the county, trying to pluck people off their roofs for transport to the Lumberton Regional Airport.
She said more than 700 were rescued on Monday, and efforts today concentrate on the Harper’s Ferry area.
Blue is stationed out of a command center on Legend Drive, near the county jail. She said the center was getting numerous phone calls from people who are out of town checking on their friends and relatives. She asked The Robesonian to tell those people that rescue effort are underway.
Mayfair subdivision was evacuated, also, with many residents being shuttled by boat in a civilian-led effort..
Dyrck Fanning and family were trapped in their home and, like most others, were without power or water. Fanning said that residents were gathering at Woodside pool, which was set up as a makeshift staging area. From there, a neighbor was shuttling residents out and supplies in, with the help of a Robeson County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Those evacuating were being dropped off around exit 20 of I-95.
Mayor Davis said he has been in contact with McCrory and North Carolina Emergency Management trying to get more shelters set up, more supplies delivered and National Guard personnel deployed.
Rescue crews from Buncombe County to New Jersey have come to help, said Linda Oxendine, director of Public Services for the city.
Residents are being urged to stay at home unless their homes are flooding, in which case they can call City Hall at 910-671-3800 to arrange transportation to an emergency shelter.
Blue emphasized again that people need to stay at home.
“They are thinking because the storm is over it’s OK to get out there, but they don’t understand what this water is doing,” she said.
Evacuees are being taken to seven shelters, at South Robeson, Red Springs, Purnell Swett and St. Pauls high schools, as well as Carroll Middle School, the Bill Sapp Recreation Center, and the Southeastern Agriculture Center on U.S. 74, which opened Monday because the other shelters were running out of room. She said staff from the Department of Social Services, Health Department and the Public Schools of Robeson County were feeding the evacuees, using food that is being taken from freezers at local schools.
She said that in addition, some county personnel have left town to bring back supplies, including food and water.
County officials are urging people to sign up for Code Red alerts that provide timely information on the storm. That can be done by sending a text message to 910-272-5875.