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Cumberland, Hoke Residents Plan To Assess Damage From Heavy Rainfall

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HOPE MILLS, N.C. — After three earthen dams buckled under the pressure of rising water, several bridges and roads in Cumberland and Hoke counties have been closed or washed away.

Pressure on the dams started when 6 to 8 inches of rain fell in the area during the 24-hour period starting Sunday night, said Scott Sharp of the National Weather Service office in Raleigh. Another 1-1/4 inches fell in the past 24 hours.

No injuries were reported and flooding appeared minimal. Officials said they plan to assess damages before asking for financial assistance.

"It almost leaves us like an island, but we'll manage," Hope Mills Mayor Edwin Deaver said.

Dams were breached Tuesday at the McLaughlin Lakes subdivision in Hoke County and downstream on Rockfish Creek at Upchurches Pond in Cumberland County, said Doc Nunnery, director of emergency services for Cumberland County.

"It's pretty much over with," Nunnery said at midmorning about the Upchurches Pond dam. "We had to get one family out. They had a foot of water in their house when they got them out. The water's receding now."

"There will be a few people that walk out here and fish, but as far as boating and all of that, that is over with," park owner David Haughn said.

A day earlier, the earthen dam on Hope Mills Lake, the recreational lake in the town of Hope Mills, failed when it was eroded by rising waters. The lake feeds into Rockfish Creek below the other two dams.

Daniel Leone lives 80 feet from Rockfish Creek and said the water reached his doorstep.

"When Floyd came here it rained three days straight and the river didn't even come close to cresting. When they told me yesterday that the river was overflowing, I thought, 'I have nothing to worry about,'" he said.

The Hope Mills floodwaters got into some low-lying apartments. The dam broke after officials could not raise a flood gate because of water pressure on it.

About 40 homes and a rest home were evacuated in Hope Mills, which is about 3 miles downstream from McLaughlin Lakes, which is in Hoke County.

Even before the latest dam breaks, emergency officials had warned people in the McLaughlin Lakes subdivision's 100 homes to evacuate because the dam was eroding as water went over the top.

A result of the dam breaks was flooding that snarled traffic in and around Hope Mills, home to many people who are stationed at nearby Fort Bragg.

Traffic is being detoured as roads remain blocked across town. Some bridges have been closed because water is too high or because pavement supporting them has caved in, like on Camden Road.

"Right now, it's a mess," said Tammy Johnson, adding that it took 1-1/2 hours to get to work in Hope Mills instead of the routine 35-minute commute.

"It's bumper to bumper. Just a straight line," she said.

Heavy morning rains forced forecasters to issue flash flood warnings Tuesday in Cumberland and Hoke counties.

The National Weather Service also issued flood warnings for the Neuse and Tar rivers, but a flood warning for the Haw River at Bynum in Chatham County was canceled.

The Neuse was expected to rise to flood stage by Friday morning in Smithfield with minor flooding.

Minor flooding also was expected on the Tar River at Tarboro, where water already is above flood stage.

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