LUMBERTON — County and city officials are confident that the rain that the remnants of Hurricane Matthew delivers Robeson County will not cause flooding that was seen following Florence and Matthew, and the bigger threat is high winds that could cause power outages and the possibility of tornadoes.
The Lumber River was at 11.5 feet, below the 13-foot flood stage, as of early afternoon Wednesday, City Manager Wayne Horne said. It was expected to crest at 14.5 feet on Friday, down from an earlier projection of 15.8 feet. City officials are confident that hard-hit areas such as South and West Lumberton and Mayfair won’t see a repeat of Matthew and Florence, and any flooding will be localized.
At 5 p.m. the National Hurricane Center reported that Michael had lost some power, but remained a dangerous Category 3 storm as it approached an area where Florida, Alabama and Georgia meet. Maximum sustained winds of 125 mph continued to batter the Florida Panhandle, with hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 40 miles from the storm’s center.
It made landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla., as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane earlier Wednesday afternoon. The storm was located 30 miles west of Bainbridge, Ga., and 70 miles southwest of Albany, Ga. It was moving north-northeast at 16 mph.
“We do expect some trees down and some power interruptions,” he said. “We will keep people informed on CodeRED,” Horne said.
CodeRED is an emergency notification system through which subscribers can receive information about storms and other emergency situations on cell phones and other electronic devices.
Utility crews will be on standby to repair power outages when they can safely do so, Horne said.
Duke Energy and Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation said they also had crews in place to quickly restore lost power should that happen.
The city expects 4 to 5 inches of rains, and that the worst winds will be between 1 and 5 p.m, with gusts in the 35 mph range, lower than what the county is projecting, which is in the 40 to 45 mph range, he said. The winds will begin subsiding Thursday night and the storm is expected to move offshore Friday morning.
Michael’s full effect is expected to be felt Thursday in Robeson County, said Dave Loewenthal, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington. Wind and rain will develop into thunderstorms by mid-afternoon and start winding down as the afternoon progresses. Sustained winds will be 25 to 30 mph, with gusts of about 45 mph. Four to 5 inches of rain are expected. Some areas of the county could receive more.
“The worst part, probably, will be Thursday afternoon for your area,” Loewenthal said.
Strong winds are expected Friday morning, but will weaken quickly as the storm leaves the area, he said.
County Manager Ricky Harris said county offices and the courthouse will close at noon Thursday. The city also is closing at noon.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were no plans to open a shelter, but if that changes, the shelter would be at the Bill Sapp Recreation Center and not public schools.
Owners of residences or businesses that suffered roof damage from Florence need to secure tarpsto prepare for heavy rainfall and the possibility of tropical storm-force winds, he said. Harris also advises residents to secure any loose objects, such as garbage cans, lawn furniture, etc.
Because the ground is saturated in many areas it will not take as much wind to topple weakened trees, which could cause additional power outages, Harris said.
A few tornadoes are possible, especially on Thursday, he said.
The Robeson County public schools will be closed Thursday to students and staff. Robeson Community College also will be closed, and students are on fall break at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Grocery stores reported earlier this week that the lines were a bit longer as people stocked up should the worst happen.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at email@example.com.