The wind howled in Lee County last night — sustained wind speeds here are close to 30 mph, with 40 mph gusts — but the rains from Hurricane Florence are expected to start making a difference today. According to the National Hurricane Center’s latest report, we’re still in line for anywhere between 8 and 15 inches of rain.
In short, so far so good. But the worst is yet to come.
- Duke Energy is already reporting outages in Lee County; several on the west end of the county have lost power. Some have already regained it.
- We’re still in line for stronger winds as well, mapped on the northern end of the “tropical storm” wind cone. Lee County is currently under a “tropical storm warning” and a “flash flood watch,” according to the National Weather Service. The tropical storm warning includes the potential for tornadoes (or cyclones).
- More than 250 evacuees are staying in Lee County shelters today.
- Lee County Emergency Management Director Shane Seagroves says several areas of Lee County are prone to heavy flooding — one in Sanford’s city limits is the Riverbirch area, which has flooded before under much lesser conditions.
- Curfew in Lee County remains in effect. Don’t make the county wait up for you.
- Lee County’s information line: (919) 718-4686
- Statewide, New Bern seems to be receiving the biggest beating so far. According to CNN, rescuers had plucked more than 200 people from rising waters by Friday morning, with 150 more still waiting for rescue as storm surges reached 10 feet.
Hurricane Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. this morning as a Category 1 storm. It’s being referred to as a “lumbering giant,” expected to take a full 24 hours to crawl from Emerald Isle, N.C., to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
According to the NY Times, more than 400,000 people in North Carolina have lost power, and officials in Onslow County have reported “major structural damage” to homes and businesses. Rainfall of up to 40 inches is possible in Emerald Isle. And in New Bern, more than 200 people have been rescued from their homes in rising waters, and 150 were in need of rescue as of early Friday.
The wind has come and gone, and the rain has been mostly light. Already though, Duke Energy is reporting 32 “outage locations” affecting 790 customers (Sanford Herald reports about 1,500 without power). The first power outage reported at 11 pm. Thursday night. Several in the county have reported power outages on social media, which many of those reporting the power eventually returned.
The real worry locally is flooding. Lee County Emergency Management Director Shane Seagroves says areas of worry include Riverbirch, North Plank Road, Lower River Road and several areas in Lemon Springs on Greenwood Road. Riverbirch, in particular, is famous for its flooding. It made national news after Hurricane Matthew when a man decided to jet ski in the parking lot following the storm.
According to Seagroves, about 250 people are currently staying in Lee County shelters. The shelter at the Armory is reporting 100 of its evacuees are from Craven County (which, of course, is home to New Bern, which, of course, is getting hammered).
The Army National Guard’s Armory at 2214 Nash St. is being run by the N.C. Department of Public Safety, as part of the North Carolina Coastal Region Evacuation and Shelter Plan. The shelter has been designated as the inland emergency shelter for Craven County residents that are under a mandatory evacuation order due to Hurricane Florence.
Sanford’s other shelter is located at SanLee Middle School at 2309 Tramway Road. This one is a pet-friendly location, with dogs, cats and birds sheltered in a nearby facility. Those requiring transportation to the shelter via COLTS through 10 a.m. Thursday can call (919) 776-7291.
The Lee County curfew remains in effect this morning. Lee County, Sanford and Broadway officials have determined that maintaining the curfew “is in the public’s best interest as Hurricane Florence moves onshore.” The curfew provision does provide exemptions; police officers or other public safety officials, members or volunteers for disaster relief services, medical service providers, members of the news media and anybody traveling to and from work (those exempt are asked to carry proper identification).
- WalMart in Sanford closed at 6 p.m. Thursday night and will reopen at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.
- Lee County Government offices and facilities are closed today. Emergency services remain operational during this time but tropical storm conditions may impact response times.
The Lee County Board of Commissioners met in an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss emergency response plans. The Board made a Declaration of a State of Emergency for Lee County including the City of Sanford and the Town of Broadway. The declaration takes effect immediately and is set to expire on Sept. 30, unless modified or rescinded sooner.
- Harnett County declared a State of Emergency on Wednesday. The county opened two emergency shelters Thursday night. Shelters are located at Triton High School at 215 Maynard Lake Road in Erwin, and at Overhills High School at 2495 Ray Road in Spring Lake. Anyone staying at a shelter should bring any required medication. The Triton shelter has provisions for pets.
- Harnett emergency personnel can be reached on the PIO lines at (910) 893-0630 and (910) 893-0634.