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Wild night of storms creates cleanup work in Cumberland, Lee

Posted July 9, 2008

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— Powerful storms have left plenty of heartache and headaches across the state in recent days.

The troubles have ranged from a deadly lightning strike at the coast to damaged homes and offices. One of the places the storms left a mess was in Hope Mills in Cumberland County.

Hope Mills got 3½ inches of rain Tuesday night. It was similar heavy rainfall five years ago that washed out the old dam at Hope Mills Lake.

A new dam is set to be done next month, but like a bad case of deja vu, the floodwater raged again Tuesday. The dam-break was enough to break the heart of Hope Mills Mayor Eddie Dees.

"The water just kept rising. It came over the top and washed away the earthen part," Fayetteville resident Anita White said.

It was just a temporary structure, built to divert water away from where the new dam is being built. Crews had planned to pour concrete for the last link of the new spillway by Friday, but the molding washed away.

Dees said that could delay the project by a week or two.

"A lot of people want to know why we built such a big dam. If they could have been here at 6 this morning and seen all the water coming through here, they'd understand," the mayor said.

Floodwater even seeped into the Hope Mills Town Hall, covering the floor with an inch of water. Throughout the day, fans blew to dry up the moisture.

Just up the road, across from Cumberland Mills Elementary School, water had Anita White surrounded Tuesday night.

"Within 10 minutes, it was going into the house. In the next 15 minutes, it was going into my car," she said. About an inch of water covered her carpet.

"Everything came directly through that wall and that door over there," White said.

White, who lives on Sim Cotton Road, said the flooding she experienced Tuesday night was the worst yet at her home. “I had a feeling it was gonna happen. I just didn’t know it was gonna be that bad,” she said.

She blames a parking lot built in 2001 at Cumberland Mills Elementary School for making flooding problems worse. School district officials say the house is in a low-lying area that has a history of flooding and the paving did not create the problem.

In the Lemon Springs community in Lee County, it wasn’t flooding that was the problem for Barry Wallace's home on Sheriff Watson Road. It was the wind that uprooted a massive, pecan tree in his front yard. Area residents believe the tree is 150 years old.

The top of it crashed into the front of his house, though it caused little damage inside. He said his family was fortunate.

"All things considered, yeah, my family could have been home,” Wallace said. “My boy's terrified of storms.”

There had been reports of tornadoes in Lee County because of radar images and some reports from weather-spotters, but the National Weather Service said after carrying out a damage survey Wednesday that only 65 mph straight-line winds had hit the area.

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