BLADENBORO — Several areas of Bladen County were submerged in floodwater on Sunday, including downtown Bladenboro.

Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker has never seen anything like it, not even with Hurricane Matthew nearly two years ago.

“This is worse than Matthew was so far,” McVicker said Sunday afternoon.

“The roads are in really, really bad shape. There are a lot of roads that are impassable and the only thing we really have going for us is the people of Bladen County are adhering to our requests, doing what we ask.”

The county has been ravaged by rain and flooding over the weekend from Florence, now a tropical depression.

In Bladenboro, water was racing in front of several business on Seaboard Street, including L&J Car Wash and the Over Yonder ice cream shop, in the same area that saw significant flood damage during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Rodney’s Barber Shop on Railroad Street was filled with waist-deep water throughout the building, with a toppled refrigerator settled in the corner and chairs floating from wall to wall.

An immobile Bladenboro Fire Department service truck sat at the intersection of South Ash Street and Railroad Street as town policemen and highway patrolmen roamed the area urging people to stay off the roads.

An estimated 10 to 15 inches of rain has fallen throughout the county, according to the National Weather Service, with some areas like Elizabethtown getting as much as 20 inches.

Rain is expected to continue throughout Sunday in the region and that will contribute to even more flooding.

“We’ve lost several vehicles; we’ve had several roads washed out,” McVicker said. “It’s really, really terrible and I’m begging people to please stay at home.

“We’ve got a lot of outside help from other counties and other states. God bless them all for helping us.”

Swift water rescue teams from Vermont were stationed in Bladenboro and Kelly ahead of the storm, as well as an incident management team from Oklahoma.

Early Sunday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper said more than 900 lives have been saved by rescues in the state.

Bradley Kinlaw, Bladen County’s emergency services director, estimates that between 200 and 250 people have been rescued so far in the county.

Kinlaw said the damage is “uniformed” as far as downed trees, power lines and flooded roads.

Flooding continues to be the primary concern, and the worst could be yet to come, with flood levels for rivers throughout the region expected to exceed that of Floyd and Matthew.

County officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents in the Kelly and Rowan communities near the Cape Fear River in the southern part of the county at 10 a.m. Sunday.

“We’re currently staging resources on the east end of the county,” Kinlaw said. “We started evacuations there this morning and prepared rescue efforts.”

The river is expected to crest Tuesday, with levels higher than that of Hurricane Matthew, the county said in a release.

“We have officers from other counties, my people, and the (Emergency Operations Center) evacuating people with buses,” McVicker said.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered Saturday afternoon in the northern part of the county for people in the vicinity of White Oak and Tar Heel at River Road, Burney Road, Tar Heel Ferry Road and along Harrison Creek.

But the Smithfield plant has had “no issues,” according to Kinlaw.

“No news is good news, I guess,” he said.

The Cape Fear hit flood stage near the Huske Lock near Tar Heel and the Cumberland County line, and in Elizabethtown on Saturday night. It is expected to reach flood stage on Sunday at the Kelly Lock.

“When these rivers start cresting, we’re going to have a real problem,” McVicker said.

“We were really very fortunate to start planning for this thing early. … Now, we’re trying to stay two steps ahead because we know what’s coming when these rivers crest.”

Bladen County Hospital lost its generator power on Friday, forcing patients to be moved to Cape Fear Valley Health in Fayetteville. By Saturday, the emergency room had returned to operations and 38 patients were getting care, according to McVicker.

The county is under a daily curfew from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. until further notice.

Bladen County Schools has canceled classes for Monday, and Bladen Community College will be closed through Tuesday.

“We don’t want people to be driving under any circumstances if they can help it,” McVicker said.

“Again, I can’t say enough about our leaders working together and outside agencies coming in to help us.”

 

Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at rbaxley@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3519.