Much of southern Sampson County was still underwater Tuesday as Red Cross and FEMA worked to extend resources to the town, while across the county the number of destroyed roads continued to mount as excess flooding ate away at the foundations of several more paths around Sampson.
“It appears that the northern end of the county has stabilized,” said assistant county manager Susan Holder, who noted much of the focus was on the southern end. Regardless, stable is far from normal, she noted.
“It will be a long time before things are normal.”
On Tuesday, response was focused primarily on the southern end of Sampson, where “significant flood concern,” particularly in the Kerr Station and Ivanhoe areas, brought coordination of water deliveries and mass feeding opportunities with Red Cross and the N.C. Baptist Men. Community suppers were set to be offered at churches in Harrells, Garland and Clinton on Tuesday evening.
The Black River gauge at Clear Run as of early Tuesday was showing 27.82 feet. The flood stage is 18 feet. By comparison, the record from 1999 during Hurricane Floyd was 27.1 feet. The quickly-rising water levels left many stranded and submerged churches, businesses and residences. The full extent of damage will not be known for several days or weeks.
“At the height of the storm, some people tried to drive through the water and were stranded,” said Holder. “There were some whose homes flooded and had medical issues.”
Holder said that hundreds of water rescues had been performed over the storm event utilizing the county’s first responders, local fire departments and assistance from N.C. Forestry, the National Guard, Greensboro and Mooresville swift water rescue teams. Evacuations were voluntary, not mandatory, and county emergency personnel were responding as calls came in.
“We continue to respond to calls as we receive them,” she said Tuesday. Those calls tapered off Monday night, but “as soon as the sun came up, we started getting calls from people who realized that the water had risen overnight. These high waters are still necessitating water rescue efforts.”
Greensboro Fire Department had been conducting water rescues and, even though they were re-deployed to Moore County, Mooresville authorities were still working to assist the county.
“The county is aware there are many who have been without power for several days, so we have been coordinating mass feeding opportunities with the Red Cross and expect to offer something by the end of Tuesday,” said Holder, who noted that the local churches took intiative to host the feedings. “We expect the need for this to diminish somewhat as power is restored to communities.”
The state will be working with local DSS departments on post-storm food assistance programs. Resources were requested and received from the state — water and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and county personnel, with National Guard assistance, have been distributing those items to municipalities who have requested resources.
Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy said Tuesday that water had arrived from FEMA and was being distributed by the Garland Fire Department. Home delivery was made to some last night, with attempts to reach as many people as possible. Pick-up locations were set up at the Garland Fire Station, on Harrells Highway across from Boykin-Hayes Lane and at U.S. 701 and Lamb Road.
“Water is also being delivered to residents in the Parkersburg area who are still without power,” Murphy said. “All attempts are being made to provide these resources to our many citizens in and outside of the city limits who are still without electricity. If you are affected by the temporary water outage in the Garland area, you may also pick up a case of water from the Garland Fire Station on W. Second Street.”
Sherrill Allen, chairman of the United Way of Sampson County’s Disaster Relief Subcommittee, spoke with Sheriff Jimmy Thornton Tuesday. The sheriff told him water was an immediate need in the county so Allen offered to bring pallets of water bottle cases and deliver them to the Agri-Exposition Center distribution site.
The United Way of Sampson County’s Executive Committee approved expending $1,300 for bottled water.
The county’s Soil and Water Conservation personnel assisted Emergency Management with assessment of dams and waterways in an effort to monitor potential flood hazards.
Three shelters remained open Tuesday, two general population shelters at Union Elementary School and Sampson Middle School and a third special needs shelter. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, there were less than 100 people (including staff) in these shelters, allowing the county to close the Midway Middle School shelter.
Even though county offices have been closed for normal business operations, county personnel from all departments have been actively engaged in disaster response activities including shelter operations, manning the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), resource receipt and distribution and hazard assessment.
Holder said county employees — from Tax Office, Inspections, Finance, Cooperative Extension and Parks and Recreation and many others — were not only at the EOC, but helping DOT fill sandbags to barricade roads.
“There are very few departments, if any, that haven’t been dedicated to these efforts,” Holder said. “We hope to soon move from disaster response into a long-term plan for recovery.”
County offices could be on a limited opening Wednesday. The County Complex has power, but no operable phones.
Curfews were lifted in the City of Clinton and Sampson County Tuesday night, however City manager Shawn Purvis asked everyone to exercise caution.
“The City of Clinton will not have a curfew tonight. However, we request that you not be on the road after dark due to some power lines still being down,” he stated Tuesday afternoon.
School closings/event cancellations
Sampson County Schools, Clinton City Schools and Sampson Community College were all closed again Wednesday for students and staff. For the city and county school systems, all maintenance and custodial staff were asked to report to work to begin clean-up efforts at schools if possible.
School personnel made the decision to close schools for the safety of the staff and students. With many roads closed due to flooding and damage, officials felt buses would not be able to travel routes with ease and safety.
On Tuesday, Harrells Christian Academy Headmaster Kevin Kunst called school off for the rest of the week, with plans to return Monday, Oct. 17. He asked that the school’s staff, students and faculty offer prayers for those most severely impacted.
“We continue to pray for those without power or in the path of local cresting rivers,” Kunst stated. “Though many of our constituents now have power and the campus itself has power, we believe a significant portion of our students and staff are still affected. In addition, we have concerns that operating school will create traffic that may impact efforts of emergency services and the National Guard as they work very close to the school on multiple dangerous situations.”
It was also announced Tuesday that the Sorghum Festival scheduled for this Saturday, Oct. 15, has been cancelled.
John and Annie Matthews hold the annual Sorghum Festival at McDaniels Crossroads in the Roseboro area every year, but will be unable to this year, their granddaughter Jessica said.
The event was scheduled for this Saturday, Oct. 15, however the Matthews, residents of Old Mintz Highway in Garland, are stranded without power and have been told it may be until Saturday before power is restored.
Dozens of roads across Sampson County have been closed as a result of flood waters from Hurricane Matthew. While some roads have been washed out completely, others are still covered in water.
Motorists can expect many of these roads to remain closed for some time, as transportation officials are projecting completion of repair at the end of October. Many problems, officials say, are discovered when personnel goes in to fix a roadway and discovers issues that weren’t know about prior to the flood damage.
Brian Rick, communications officer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, encouraged residents to follow the latest information at goo.gl/YwcnJ1. Roads that were damaged and the estimated time of repair is listed, as well as roads that are washed out being repaired and reopened.
“Our people are working effectively to have our roads back in an operable condition,” Rich stated. “We are now faced with rivers cresting and water flowing to places that haven’t seen water before.”
Rick urged motorists to use caution when traveling roads, as the condition of a road changes often and a problem that is present one day, may not have been there the day before.
“If you see water on the road, please turn around,” Rick said.
As of Tuesday, Holder said there were a number of roadways were still impassable due to flooding (see list of roads inside), including N.C. 24 near Moltonville and U.S. 701 near Garland,with hopes that water would recede for necessary repairs to be done in the near future. Other pathways across Sampson, including U.S. 13 near Kansas City Sausage, the former Martin Meats, would take much longer.
“That bridge is going to be out for a while,” Holder said.
Crews continued to work through the night to restore power to the thousands of customers who were left in the day following this past weekend’s visit from Hurricane Matthew.
Sampson County was one of the hardest hit communities in the state due to flooding and power outages from Hurricane Matthew.
As of Tuesday morning, the fourth day many county residents were still without power, thousands of customers from Duke Energy, South River Electric Membership Corporation and Four County Electric were sitting in the dark and waiting for their power to be restored.
According to Anne Sheffield, spokesperson for Duke Energy, nearly 8,980 customers are still without power. Following Saturday’s storm, more than 1.2 million Duke Energy customers across North and South Carolinas lost power at some point during Hurricane Matthews. At the height of the storm, Sheffield said more than 680,000 customers were without power at the same time.
Approximately 2,800 South River customers are still experiencing a power outage, but officials with the company said the crews will focus on areas around Newton Grove, Keener, Hargrove and Clinton.
“This has been an absolute catastrophe,” Cathy O’Dell, vice president of member services and public relations, shared. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
South River added nearly a dozen tree crews and line crews to assist in the efforts of local personnel, who O’Dell said had been in the field since Sunday morning. There are 110 linemen and tree crew members in the field and nearly 70 vehicles are being utilized to restore service.
According to O’Dell, the crews have done everything possible to restore customers’ power as quickly as possible.
“People can’t easily see the extent of the conditions,” O’Dell said. “We have had men standing in waist-deep water working to get the power going.”
Four County EMC is reporting approximately 4,790 members without power. While crews made steady progress Monday, they are still contending with flooded roads and clearing debris before they can begin the work of making repairs to the system.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.