CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Towns across eastern North Carolina ordered residents in low-lying areas to evacuate their homes and head for shelters on Monday as swelling rivers were on the verge of coming out of their banks in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
The flooding is reminiscent of the destructive Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and had people seeking higher ground for what could be an extended stay, according to officials.
In Goldsboro, Dorothy Hooker, 86, sat in a wheelchair lined up with her sisters, Eloise Tatum, 92, and Sadie Chearod, 90, also in wheelchairs. To her right was her husband, Edward Hooker, 87. The sisters live just down the street from Carver Heights Elementary School where they all took shelter Sunday. They evacuated their homes because they feared no one could rescue them if the Neuse River gets too high.
“A policeman came by Sunday, telling everybody we had to evacuated. … He said they don’t how bad it would be,” Chearod said. “If we didn’t come out and it got bad, they couldn’t come get us.”
Officials in Kinston and Lenoir County issued a mandatory evacuation Monday afternoon for residents and businesses along the Neuse River.
“If your home or business flooded during Hurricane Floyd, you need to take immediate action to prepare for the possibility of flooding later this week,” said Roger Dail, director of Lenoir County Emergency Services. “Even if your residence or business does not flood, access may be severely limited or impossible in the next few days.”
According to a document provided by the state Division of Emergency Management, potentially more than 1,100 homes, businesses and other buildings in Greenville along a six-mile stretch of the Tar River could be harmed by the time flooding peaks on Wednesday evening. More than 500 buildings could be affected in Kinston by Friday morning’s peak of the Neuse River, while waters at the peak of the Northeast Cape Fear River at Burgaw on Tuesday evening could harm more than 250 buildings in a similar six-mile stretch near a state precipitation gauge.
Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas issued a mandatory evacuation order for areas of the city adjacent to the Tar River, including some greenways and the Town Common. The town also closed some bridges that span the river on Monday, and N.C. Department of Transportation officials told The Daily Reflector of Greenville that the bridges could remain closed into next week.
Duke Energy was working to restore power across the Carolinas, but advised its customers they could be without power well into the week. Bobby Simpson, the utility’s storm director, said work crews were poised to start repairs as Matthew hit, but they got a surprise.
“We were ready,” Simpson said. “We had resources in place. They were staged, and they were lined up with what we expected to happen. But the punch was bigger. So we’ve now got more than double the number of resources we originally planned.”
Simpson said around 7,000 people are working on repairs, with more workers expected this week.