June 17, 2021

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Charges pending in fatal three-vehicle crash near St. Pauls

LUMBERTON — No evacuations had been undertaken in the county as of Thursday afternoon, but some roads were closed and areas subject to flooding were being monitored, according to city and county officials.

There had been no evacuations in the city and no downed trees reported as of Thursday afternoon as a result of the continued rainfall and rising water levels in the Lumber River, said Chris West, interim chief of the Lumberton Fire Department.

No evacuations of homes in the county were made either, as of Thursday afternoon, said Emily Jones, Robeson County’s Public Information officer.

There was street flooding in low-lying parts of Lumberton like Noir Street, which had been closed to traffic, he said.

“We are making additional preparations, as far as preparing equipment,” West said.

And the department is monitoring possible flooding situations, he said.

If flooding caused by the Lumber River overflowing its banks or by rainfall continues to spread, the department planned to bring on additional personnel to include three water rescue technicians for more manpower and water rescues if needed, he said.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Robeson County effective from 10 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday.

“Saturated ground from recent above normal rainfall and elevated river levels will result in runoff and poor drainage of water. Numerous area rivers are already in flood stage and are forecasted to continue rising as a result of an additional 2 to 3 inches of rain,” according to the NWS.

A flash flood watch means conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding, according to the NWS.

“Flash flooding is a VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should Flash Flood Warnings be issued,” an NWS advisory reads in part.

The Lumber River’s water level had reached 18.5 feet Thursday afternoon, according to NWS. The river’s flood stage is 13 feet.

Interim Chief West said city residents should continue to monitor their areas if they are prone to flooding and prepare to evacuate if necessary.

“Be prepared. Make sure you have, you know, food and supplies on hand,” he said.

Residents should avoid floodwaters because of contaminants that may be in the water, West said.

Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins released a statement Thursday on Facebook, with photos of flooded areas, urging county residents to exercise caution in areas near the Lumber River.

“Some roads close to river crossings are already covered by water, and some neighborhoods near the river are already having problems,” Wilkins wrote.

“Please pay attention to warnings, be careful driving in areas around river crossings and don’t risk unnecessarily driving on flooded roads as some are in bad shape and cracked. Thank you,” his statement reads in part.

Sheriff’s Maj. Howard Branch and Sgt. Timmy Ivey rescued a dog on Chicken Foot Road Thursday morning. The dog could be seen in a photo posted on social media sitting on a point of higher ground as floodwaters rose around it.

Wilkins said the dog was safe and receiving a bath and shots at the Robeson County Animal Shelter.

“The owner of the dog needs to contact Robeson County Sheriffs Office Animal Cruelty Investigator Katherine Floyd at 910-671-3199 within 72 hours,” he said.

The State Highway Patrol was out in the county, patrolling and monitoring traffic on the wet roadways, Sgt. X.S. McPherson said Thursday morning. Troopers were continuing to enforce traffic safety while also removing abandoned vehicles from highways and assisting motorists.

McPherson said people should be careful on the roadways and avoid traveling if possible.

“Watch your speed,” he said. “If you don’t have to be out there, don’t be out there.”

Troopers hadn’t responded to many crashes as of Thursday morning, he said. There were no reports of ice on the roadways.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued a state of emergency Wednesday ahead of the winter storm’s arrival to the state. Executive Order 194 allowed waivers for utility companies to bring repair crews into the state to respond more quickly to power outages, and mobilized 40 National Guard personnel to clear areas of fallen trees or other debris.

In response to the storm, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is allowing early prescription refills to give customers access to their prescription drugs across the state. The refills are available in all counties until the state of emergency is lifted. Other BCBS members in states that have declared states of emergencies related to the winter storm may also benefit from the policy.

“All North Carolinians should focus on protecting themselves and their families, without added stress,” said Dr. Tunde Sotunde, Blue Cross N.C. president and CEO. “The procedures we have initiated will help our customers get the medications they need during and after the winter storm.”

Members may learn more by logging in to their self-service portal at blueconnectnc.com or by contacting the customer service number on the back of their Blue Cross N.C. ID card.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation released on Thursday a list of road closures related to rainfall. They were:

— Hestertown Road near N.C. 72 in Lumberton is closed in both directions.

— Chicken Foot Road near Alamac Road in Lumberton is closed in both directions.

— Old Lowery Road near Pearsall Road is closed in both directions near Red Springs.

— Fairbluff Road near Marietta is closed in both directions.

— N.C. 130 near Orrum is closed in both directions.

— Carthage Road near Lumberton is closed in both directions.

NCDOT warns motorists to “turn around, don’t drown” and never drive around barricades placed in front of flooded roadways. For more updates on flooded roadways in Robeson County or across the state, visit https://drivenc.gov/.