There have been 72 specialized rescue missions — through waters and air — conducted since Hurricane Florence began, county officials said as of Tuesday evening, lauding response from the Coast Guard, National Guard, swift water rescue teams, local first responders and others involved in the team effort.
An actual total number of people rescued was not immediately known, but a number of water rescues were conducted Monday, and two missions alone totaled 47 people. That included the extraction of 17 people, including an infant and two medical transports, and another air extraction of 30 people from Trestle Road and Snow Hill Baptist Church.
The effort continued Tuesday and was expected to be ongoing for the southern portion of Sampson, notably the Ivanhoe and Ingold areas. Rescues have occurred since 6:15 a.m. Saturday and spiked in the last couple days as waters receded in the north and rose in the south.
Aside from a handful of rescues in the northern end of the county, the majority have happened in southern Sampson.
Along with the Coast Guard and National Guard helicopter teams, local fire departments were working with the Oakland (Calif.) Swift Water Task Force; Sacramento Swift Water Task Force; an EOC (Emergency Operations Center) Overhead Support Team from Santa Clara, Calif.; and five ambulance strike teams deployed by the State EOC.
“The helo teams have been landing on roads and football fields and we have local fire departments on the ground working to coordinate that,” said county public information officer Susan Holder. “It is a remarkable synergistic method being employed, and we are so very blessed to have gotten these crews here, and they are tied so well with our local agencies.”
On Tuesday, Emergency Management officials continued to monitor the levels at the Black River in the southern end of the county. The previous record flood stage, set during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, was 27.9 feet. Late Monday, the Black River near Tomahawk surpassed 30 feet, and recording data was no longer possible when the gauge broke. However, the NC Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network (FINMAN) reports that they estimate the river could go much higher.
Flood stage for the river is 18 feet. It is expected to crest this week, as early as Wednesday, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Town of Autryville contacted the Sampson County Emergency Operations Center on the need for sandbags and potential for evacuations due to South River flooding.
The southern end of the county continues to experience extreme flooding, with many areas washed away and roads broken by the force of rushing waters, local officials said. A mandatory evacuation for the portions of the southern end of the county remained in effect, and rescues were expected to be ongoing.
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.