LUMBERTON — Eyes that were turned to the sky Thursday as a weather system packing the potential for damaging winds moved through the area are now focused on the Lumber River, which topped its flood stage by 3 feet on Friday afternoon.
The river’s water level hit 16 feet as of 1 p.m. Friday, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advisory issued at 3:14 p.m. The river was forecast to reach 16.6 feet just after midnight Saturday and then start falling. A flood warning for the Lumber River near Lumberton is in effect until further notice.
When the water level is between 15 and 16 feet there can be flooding in flood-prone locations, such as VFW Road, Cox Road and Noir Street, said Bill French, director of Emergency Services for the city of Lumberton. But, so far, the river is staying, mostly, inside its banks.
There were no major flooding issues to report as a result of the rain the storm dumped on Lumberton, French said, although The Robesonian did receive two calls about flooding, including one at a local mobile home park. When the newspaper called back, however, it was told that the problem was gone as the water had been pumped away.
“From what I’ve seen, Lumberton got about 2.75 inches of rain last night,” Frenc said.
What helped the city was that the heavy rain fell for short periods of time that were interspersed with periods of lighter rain, he said. It’s when heavy rain falls for long periods of time that the city’s storm drains can’t handle it and water backs up over streets.
The town of Fairmont did report a problem related to rainfall.
Untreated sewerage was flowing from two manholes on Marvin Street, according to a notice issued Friday. The overflow was a result of heavy rainfall from Thursday night’s storm and was continuing as of Friday afternoon.
The town’s Public Works Department was dealing with it and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Water Resources has been notified of the spill, according to the notice.
The universal opinion seems to be Lumberton, and Robeson County, got off light, especially as the forecast caused for the possibility of downed trees, flooding, power outages and tornadoes.
“We did have a few trees down,” French said.
One tree fell across Chestnut Street near the Cutler Moore Bridge and blocked traffic, he said. A small tree fell across Cricklewood Street, but didn’t cause any damage or problems.
The trees were toppled by the high winds that swept into the county after the storm passed through. The National Weather Service office in Wilmington reported maximum wind gusts of 48 mph in Pembroke and 43 mph in Lumberton. Both were recorded at 9:16 a.m. Friday.
“We didn’t have any problems last night,” said Lonnie Brayboy, director of Lumberton Utilities.
The problems arose the next morning when about 50 customers lost power for about one hour early Friday after a tree limb fell across some power lines, he said. The vinyl blew off a billboard on Lackey Street and hit a power line.
“The lights just blinked on that one,” Brayboy said.
The Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation and its members/customer didn’t fare quite so well. But, as with Lumberton Utilities, the problems didn’t start until Friday morning.
Reports of power outages starting coming in about 6 a.m. and peaked about 8 a.m., said Walter White, vice president of Corporate Services.
There were 1,5oo outages reported in Robeson County, he said. System-wide there were 2,380.
Thirty-four LREMC members still were without power as of about 4 p.m. Friday, he said. The corporation expected to have power restored to these members by 6 p.m.
The LREMC has about 54,000 members/customers in Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson and Scotland counties.
“Every single one of them, we’re told, was related to trees,” White said of the outages.
It was a combination of wind and rain, he said. The ground was wet because of the rainfall seen during the winter combined with the rain dumped on the region by Thursday’s storm. Then the strong winds came and blew down limbs and trees.
“Not a good combination,” White said.
There were also scattered outages for customers of Duke Energy, including along Barker Ten Mile Road.
The storm did cause a disruption for the Public Schools of Robeson County, which canceled after-school activities on Thursday. Orginally, the system planned to start school on a two-hour delay on Friday, but decided to cancel classes that day because of concerns about street flooding and high winds.
According to the NWS in Wilmington, 3.05 inches of rain fell in Orrum as of 7:30 a.m. Friday; 2.68 inches in Northeast Lumberton as of 7 a.m., 2.42 inches as of 7:14 a.m. in downtown and Southeast Lumberton, 2.18 inches in West Pembroke as of 7 a.m., and 1.7 inches in downtown Pembroke as of 7:17 a.m.
The weather service said no tornadoes were reported in the county.
Reach T.C. Hunter by email at [email protected] or by calling 910-816-1974.