Detours, delays, flooding along I-95 corridor
Posted October 9, 2016 2:53 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:38 p.m. EDT
Princeville, N.C. — Parts of North Carolina were still recovering Monday from the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew.
The impact of Hurricane Matthew reached even the interstate highway system, where flooding closed lanes of Interstate 95 in three locations.
Traffic was blocked in both directions between exits 17 to 22 in Robeson County. In Cumberland County, lanes are closed between exits 40 and 55. Farther north, the interstate was closed between exits 77 and 87 in Harnett and Johnston counties.
As Matthew made its way up the coast, I-95 access was closed briefly in Georgia and in South Carolina as well, a crucial loss along the main route connecting Florida and the Southeast with the Northeast. Low-lying sections of the highway have flooded at least three times in the past year.
All along the I-95 corridor, homes and businesses were waiting for the water to recede Sunday, and traffic was being rerouted onto U.S. Highway 421 in Dunn to Lillington and onto U.S. Highway 401 from Lillington to Fayetteville.
Just before 6 p.m., the Tar River rose enough to wash over U.S. highways 301 and 64.
The mayor of Princeville asked all 700 residents to evacuate their homes by 7 p.m. Sunday, when a curfew would take effect.
"Hurricane Floyd was a great flashback for us," said Mayor Pro Tem Lynda Joyner. "That's the reason why we have a sense of urgency."
Joyner said residents should prepare to be out of their homes for two or three days. The town was running buses into the early evening from Southern Terrace, Princeville Town Hall, Pioneer Courts, St. Luke Church, Downs Town and Lone Pine to transport those who needed help.
Tarboro High School and Martin Millennium Academy opened as shelters Sunday night for people evacuating. The county manager said officials are fairly confident the dike holding the Tar River will do its job, but the mandatory evacuation was a precaution because residents have seen the devastating effects of flooding during Hurricane Floyd.
Frank Redwine was pushing one of his family cars from his Walton Street driveway in the dark Sunday night. It was the last thing on his to-do list before leaving for several days.
"We got clothes and shoes and little other material stuff out of the house and we did what we can to get everything out," Redwine said.
Some in Tarboro believed that county or city leaders would go upstream and open a gate to let water out of the reservoir but the county manager said that is not true. The dam has an automatic release system and that has already been factored in when he talks about the water cresting.
"I just thank God that we are somewhere safe," said Marva Scott.
The popular Bill's BBQ restaurant in Wilson was surrounded by water when the nearby Wiggins Mill Reservoir breached its banks. Owner Bill Ellis told WRAL News after Hurricane Floyd that he didn't plan to relocate because he believed that was a once-in-a-century event.
Across town, Lake Wilson overflowed a dam where it flows out in Contentnea Creek.
Greenville residents north of the Tar River and south of Belvoir Road and those south of the Tar River between Pitt Street and Brownlea Drive as well as the Riverwalk and Dockside neighborhoods were also urged to leave, and to anticipate being away from home for up to a week.
Public school systems in Sampson, Wilson, Wayne and Edgecombe counties and the Nash-Rocky Mount public schools canceled classes for Monday. Wayne County and Johnston County schools will remain closed through Tuesday.
Edgecombe County was also the site of the feel-good story of the day. A dog, caught on video swimming through floodwaters in Pinetops Sunday morning, was later rescued by a volunteer firefighter with South Edgecombe Fire Department. That dog was being cared for by the Maggie Society canine rescue group.