Hurricanes

The latest: Robeson County schools 'closed until further notice'

Posted September 15, 2018 1:09 a.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2018 9:45 p.m. EDT

Tropical Storm Florence is continuing to drop torrential rain across the state Saturday as the system moves into South Carolina.

While clean-up has started in many areas, water rescues are still underway, thousands of people are in shelters and thousands more are still in survival mode.

At a glance:

  • Many North Carolina residents are dealing with flooding after Florence made landfall Friday as a Category 1 hurricane.
  • The Cape Fear and Neuse rivers are not expected to peak until at least Monday.
  • More than 700,000 customers were without power in North Carolina at the peak of the storm.
  • About 245 people had to be rescued from riding water. the majority in New Bern and Jacksonville.
  • Eleven deaths – two people in Duplin County, a husband and wife in Cumberland County, a person in South Carolina, a woman in Pender County, a mother and child in Wilmington, two people in Lenoir County and an 81-year-old man in Wayne County -- have been blamed on the storm.

Hurricane Florence 11 am path update

Latest updates

9:05 p.m.: Given flooding, power outages and expected damage to school buildings, leaders in Robeson County posted to Facebook Saturday night that schools would be closed "until further notice."

Administrators "will continue to err on the side of caution," Superintendent Dr. Shanita W. Wooten wrote, even if that means delaying a return to class for the 20,000-plus students of the district.

8:50 p.m.: Heavy rains are expected to continue in Harnett, Sampson and Cumberland counties overnight, with another 4 to 10 inches of rain possible.

8:15 p.m.: Forty soldiers and 20 trucks from the Virginia National Guard are staging in Garner, set to roll out for hurricane relief on Sunday morning. The high water transport trucks are capable of carrying five tons.

7:32 p.m.: Some residents will be allowed to return to Atlantic Beach Sunday and Monday. People must have a re-entry permit. On Sunday, entry will be allowed from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Monday, entry will be allowed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

7:22 p.m.: In Raleigh, the city has reported only one storm-related closure at Hillsborough Street and Etta Burke Court. A flash flood watch remains in effect for Wake County until 10:45 p.m.

7:19 p.m.: Heavy rains have breached a Duke Energy coal ash landfill at Sutton Lake in Wilmington, the company said Saturday evening.

According to Duke, 2,000 cubic yards of soil, water and ash, enough to fill two-thirds of an Olympic-sized pool, were displaced. Officials don't believe the incident "poses a risk to public health or the environment."

7:03 p.m.: Road conditions continue to worsen in Cumberland County, and with up to 12 more inches of rain possible, the worst is not over. 7,500 people have been asked to evacuate the area by Sunday at 3 p.m. as the Cape Fear River is at risk of overflowing. The flooding could be life-threatening, officials said.

Flooding has been reported at Bartons Landing and Cliffdale Rd., 1601 Purdue Dr., Cedar Creek Rd. and LA Dunham Rd., Raeford Rd. and Rim Rd. and Coldwater Rd. and Carriage Rd. Power lines and trees are down on at least 10 other roads.

6:26 p.m.: Hog farms in North Carolina have not experienced widespread impacts from Hurricane Florence, according to the N.C. Pork Council.

According to the organization, many animals have been moved off farms that could flood, and farmers have activated back-up power generation due to significant power outages. Minor wind damage has been reported.

6:18 p.m.: The City of New Bern has tweeted that all water rescues were completed Saturday.

6:02 p.m.: A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for Pender County residents who live along and near the Black River, the Northeast Cape Fear River and creeks and streams. "If you had flooding along the Northeast Cape Fear River during Hurricane Floyd, you need to evacuation now,” said Tom Collins, Pender County Emergency manager. “If you had flooding during Hurricane Matthew, you need to evacuate.”

Earlier Saturday, residents of Cumberland County, the City of Fayetteville and the Town of Wade who live within one mile of the banks of the Cape Fear or Little rivers were ordered to evacuate immediately ahead of rising floodwaters. All persons within the evacuation area should leave by 3 p.m. Sunday, officials stated.

The City of Fayetteville posted on their Twitter page a link that can help people determine if they need to evacuate.

5:54 p.m.: Classes at North Carolina State are canceled Monday but will resume Tuesday. Classes at UNC-Chapel Hill will be canceled Monday. Classes at East Carolina University will resume Wednesday "with flexibility and support for students who cannot travel or return at that time due to hurricane-related issues," according to a press release from the university.

"To allow time for students who traveled away from the Raleigh area before the storm to return to campus, the university will resume its normal class schedule beginning 8 a.m. Tuesday," the university stated in a press release.

5:35 p.m.: Three more deaths in North Carolina have been attributed to Florence, including an 81-year-old man who hit his head while trying to evacuate Wayne County and a husband and wife who died in a stom-related house fire in Cumberland County.

5:21 p.m.: Schools will be closed in Brunswick County all next week, Sept. 17-21.

5:06 p.m.: The tropical storm warning issued for Wake County and much of the viewing area earlier this week has expired, meaning that strong winds are no longer an issue in those areas. Chatham, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston and Lee counties remain under the warning.

4:57 p.m.: A flash flood warning for Wake, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Moore, Sampson, Scotland, Wayne and Wilson counties has been extended until 10:45 p.m. as large puddles and floodwaters still remain on roads across the area.

Wilmington police have tweeted that they are aware of looting at a Family Dollar store. Video showed people running out of the store with stolen items in hand.

4:45 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center has pushed out a new update on Tropical Storm Florence. The storm continues to move slowly west at 2 mph with maximum winds of 45 mph. By 8 a.m. on Sunday, it is expected to make a right turn toward the Tennessee/North Carolina border. From there, it will eventually die off in the northern Atlantic.

4:13 p.m.: Emerald Isle has recorded a total of 20 inches of rain, according to an update for a town. Crews there are working to clear roads, restore power and repair a critical water line that provides raw water to the town. Low-lying areas along the sound remain flooded.

East Carolina University posted a gallery of photos showing damage to the campus from Hurricane Florence. A large tree was uprooted, and floodwaters were shown on roads and around the campus.

4:02 p.m.: Interstate 95 in Johnston County is closed near Exit 105 for Bagley Road.

According to a press release from the N.C. Cooperative Storm Center, the counties reporting the most outages include Brunswick, Onslow and Carteret.

3:58 p.m.: Cumberland County schools will remain closed Monday, officials announced. Moore and New Hanover counties have also canceled school on Monday.

3:36 p.m.: Gov. Cooper has urged people to avoid driving in North Carolina, especially south of U.S. Highway 65 and east of U.S. Highway 73/74. "Don't make yourself someone who needs to be rescued," he said. "If you must drive, don't drive on flooded roads. Even a few inches of water can sweep a car away."

3:24 p.m.: The popular Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier in Emerald Isle was severely damaged during Florence. "We'll be back up and running in no time!," posted the owners on Facebook.

On Saturday, 14 Swift Water Rescue team members from the Raleigh Fire Department headed out to help affected areas in North Carolina. On Sunday, 18 members who specialize in structural collapse rescues will leave Raleigh to help those experiencing storm damage from Hurricane Florence.

2:44 p.m.: Durham Drive, which intersects Tryon Road near Hammond Road in Raleigh, is completely flooded.

A quick look at what's ahead for the viewing area:

  • Wake County: Occasional rain bands, heavy at times, and an additional 4 to 7 inches of rain
  • Cumberland County: Heavy rain and catastrophic flooding likely with an additional 9 to 12 inches of rain

2:30 p.m.: Both directions of U.S. Highway 13 are closed in Cumberland County near Eastover, just east of Interstate 95, due to a tree down in the powerlines.

"All of North Carolina is subject to flooding as the storm moves westward across the state," the N.C. Department of Transportation said. "Beginning late this morning, flash-floods began closing down major interstates, US routes and NC routes including I-40 between I-95 and Wilmington and parts of I-95."

2:17 p.m.: Officials in Duplin County say two people have died in floodwaters after Hurricane Florence. The new death toll for the storm is 8. A curfew will go into effect in the flooded county at 7 p.m.

1:40 p.m.: New totals show that 245 people and 77 animals have been rescued in North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence. The majority of rescues occurred in New Bern, where officials say over 100 people were rescued Friday and 69 people were rescued Saturday morning. The statewide power outage has decreased from above 800,000 to 777,937.

At a gas station on Highway 17 in New Bern, the wait for fuel was an hour long, with lines spilling out onto the highway.

1:20 p.m.: Durham and Chatham counties have been added to the long list of N.C. counties under a flash flood warning. Most of the warnings will expire by 6 p.m. Saturday.

After a brief break in the rain, another strong band is moving across the viewing area, threatening flooding from bodies of water across North Carolina.

New Hanover County has announced that public schools will be closed all next week, Sept. 17-21, due to damage to schools from Hurricane Florence.

1:13 p.m.: Residents of Cumberland County, the City of Fayetteville and the Town of Wade who live within one mile of the banks of the Cape Fear or Little rivers were ordered to evacuate immediately ahead of rising floodwaters. All persons within the evacuation area should leave by 3 p.m. Sunday, officials stated.

Flooding in Jacksonville, NC

The evacuation area spans from the Cumberland-Harnett county line to Highway 87 in Spring Lake, Highway 401 in Linden, Highway 217 and Luke Road.

1:02 p.m.: Crabtree Creek in Raleigh has crested. The area has been known to flood year-round, often flooding the lower level of the parking deck at Crabtree Valley Mall. Crews went ahead and used caution tape and cones to block off flood prone areas on Friday in advance of the storm.

12:46 p.m.: One person had died in South Carolina as a result of Florence, bringing the storm's death toll to six. Five people died as a result of the storm in North Carolina on Friday.

12:31 p.m.: Volunteers are in Robeson County to help people if the Lumber River crests.

Officials can't say "stay off the roads" enough. Crews are out across the state working to restore power and assess roads, and people are endangering their own lives and the lives of emergency responders when they are out and about.

A deputy in Cumberland County was stuck after another driver lost control of their car due to weather conditions.

"Please stay off the roadways, the conditions are hazardous and it is putting the lives of first responders in danger," Fayetteville police tweeted.

12:09 p.m.: Moore County schools will remain closed Monday due to power outages and heavy rain in the area.

12:05 p.m.: The state Department of Transportation said all lanes of I-95 from I-40 south for 16 miles remain closed.

11:59 a.m.: The tornado warning for Duplin County was canceled.

In a midday press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper said this is one of the most dangerous times due to flooding. "In some places, rainfall has been measured in feet, not inches," said Gov. Cooper, reminding people to stay where they are until officials say it is safe to return to their homes.

11:51 a.m.: In Wilmington, New Hanover County officials stated they believe "the worst is over." Power outages are expected to last "for some time." Residents are asked to stay off the roads as tropical storm winds remain.

Nearby, in Wrightsville Beach, officials will begin assessing all water, sewer, roads and utilities to determine if it is safe for residents to return. "Following today’s assessment, staff can more accurately project a re-entry date and time in which residents and business owners can return," a press release read."

More than 150 roads were closed in Wilmington on Saturday.

11:38 a.m.: The tornado warning now includes Duplin County until 12:15 p.m.

Centuries-old trees fell across the entire state and in Raleigh as Florence passed to our south. The City of Raleigh has shared two pictures of large trees down at the Raleigh Rose Garden near Cameron Village and at Dix Park.

11:23 a.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for southeast Sampson County near near Penderlea, nine miles southwest of Wallace, until 11:45 a.m. It was moving northwest at 50 mph.

11 a.m.: The latest update from the National Hurricane Center shows Tropical Storm Florence continues to weaken. The storm is moving west at 2 mph and is "almost stationary" at this point, according to Gardner. By 8 p.m., the storm will have winds of about 40 mph, and it will continue to weaken diminish overnight as it moves across South Carolina, bringing rain to western North Carolina.

"Turn around, don't drown," and "When in doubt, throw it out."

During a press conference, officials cautioned people to not drive through flood waters, as this was the leading cause of death in Hurricane Matthew. They also asked people to throw away food that came in contact with flood waters or perishable food that was left unrefrigerated.

10:40 a.m.: Flash flood warnings that were in effect for many central North Carolina counties, including Wake, have been extended until 5 p.m. Many counties south and east of Wake will remain under a flash flood watch Saturday evening and into early next week. While the majority of flooding is southeast of the Triangle, large puddles remain on many area roads. On the ramp onto U.S. 1 from Western Boulevard, police cars were blocking the on-ramp, which was severely flooded.

Elizabeth Gardner said the worst of the winds in central North Carolina will be over Saturday afternoon, but the rain will likely carry us into Monday and Tuesday.

10:30 a.m.: Authorities have closed all northbound and southbound lanes of I-95 between Fayetteville and Dunn due to flooding.

According to the Fayetteville Police Department, power lines and a tree are covering Skye Drive off Morganton Road. "Just stay home," police tweeted.

Public utilities trucks from the City of Raleigh will deploy to Fayetteville to assist with sewer service restoration. Four two-man crews and four vacuum trucks will be used.

Residents in Carolina Beach are under a mandatory boil water notice. According to the N.C. Division of Environmental Health, water used for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, making ice and washing hands should be boiled before it is used. Officials say 1-2 minutes of rigorous boiling is sufficient.next week.

9:44 a.m.: State officials said 814,351 people in the state are without power.

9:35 a.m.: Authorities in Jacksonville said 20 people were rescued from an apartment on West Francis Street overnight after water began rising in the building. Four others were rescued at private homes and four people were rescued from vehicles.

9:25 a.m.: President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in the state of North Carolina and ordered federal aid to supplement recovery efforts. The action makes federal funding available to Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender counties.

The federal assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to covered uninsured property loss and other programs to aid recovery.

9:20 a.m.: Southbound lanes of Interstate 95 were closed between Dunn (Exit 71) and Exit 64 due to flooding. The road is expected to reopen by 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Motorists must use Exit 70 (Bud Hawkins Road) to access US-301 South. Drivers should then continue on US-301 South to NC-82 East and continue on NC-82 to I-95.

9:05 a.m.: State officials said 820,851 people were without power as a result of Florence.

8:57 a.m.: Apex officials said a portion of Richardson Road is closed due to flooding at the bridge over Beaver Creek. Drivers are advised to avoid the area.

8:44 a.m.: Harnett County has declared a mandatory evacuation along the Lower Little River near the Cumberland County line. Officials said the National Weather Service is predicting the Lower Little River will crest at 35.4 feet Monday morning, which is 17 feet above flood stage.

Emergency officials were going door-to-door Saturday to advise residents of the evacuation. The county will open Western Harnett High School at 10637 N.C. Highway 27 in Lillington at noon to accommodate evacuees.

Residents are asked to evacuate by 5 p.m.

8:41 a.m.: WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said that Wayne County, particularly in the Goldsboro area, have seen the highest rainfall totals so far, with 10 to 15 inches. She said the Neuse River is likely to reach near-record flood levels by next week but the Tar River, which caused devastation during Hurricane Matthew, will only experience minor flooding.

8:37 a.m.: North Carolina Emergency Management said that 813,519 people are without power across the state with the most outages reported in New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, Onslow, Carteret, Cumberland, Moore, Robeson, Sampson and Wake counties.

8:36 a.m.: Authorities said the 911 system is out across Onslow County, which is hindering water rescues that are necessary after overnight flooding. Officials said most roads in the county are impassable because of downed trees and power lines.

Hurricane Florence

8:26 a.m.: Cumberland County officials said a decision will be made early Saturday afternoon about whether or not to place a limited area of the county and the City of Fayetteville under mandatory evacuation orders. Residents who live within one mile of the Little River or Cape Fear River are encouraged to voluntarily evacuate because of teh potential for flooding.

Officials said that 681 people remain at seven emergency shelters, although two of those shelters are without power.

8:25 a.m.: Chatham County officials said that the number of people in shelters in the county is declining, with only 39 evacuees Saturday morning. About 6,100 people in the county remain without power.

Tropical Storm Florence

8:14 a.m.: A stretch of Interstate 40 between exits 364 and 369 were closed in Wilmington as a result of flooding from Tropical Storm Florence. The road is expected to reopen by Monday.

7:59 a.m.: Sampson County officials said one person was rescued when a vehicle tried to go through high water. The person was safe and the vehicle was moved to the side of the road.

7:43 a.m.:Officials in Jacksonville are looking for volunteers with flat-bottomed, Jon boats to assist the city's water rescue team as crews work to rescue people trapped in their homes following flooding. Anybody who can offer a boat to assist should cal 910-938-5200,

7:39 a.m.: A high water rescue was reported in Newton Grove in SampsonCounty as a flash flood emergency was issued for southwestern Wayne, northern Sampson and south central Johnston counties.

Locations that will likely experience flooding include Mount Olive, Newton Grove, Turkey, Hobbton and Spivey's Corner.

7:16 a.m.: Crabtree Creek was rising in Raleigh and although it has not reached flood stage, a flash flood warning remains in effect until 11 a.m.

7:02 a.m.: A tornado watch has been extended until 5 p.m. for several counties, including Johnston, Harnett, Sampson, Wilson, Wayne, Cumberland and Hoke.

6:56 a.m.: Officials with the City of Raleigh said more than 65 trees have fallen on city roads.

6:42 a.m.: There are still 786,769 customers without power across North Carolina with the highest number of outages reported in New Hanover, Brunswick, Onslow, Carteret, Cumberland, Robeson, Sampson and Wake counties.

6:31 a.m.: Stephen Rea, director of the Carteret County Emergency Services, said two people died Friday morning on Harkers Island as a result of Florence. Authorities did not say how the people died. The total number of deaths caused by the storm now stands at seven.

6:15 a.m.: WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said that rain conditions for parts of the viewing area could be worse Saturday than they were Friday. The continuing rain, combined with wind gusts, could lead to more downed trees and power lines.

"Areas that have power now may not have power by the end of the day," she said.

6:08 a.m.: A flood advisory has been issued for Wake, Orange, Moore, Lee, Durham and Alamance counties until noon Saturday.

6:07 a.m.: State officials said 782,909 people remain without power.

6 a.m.: The National Hurricane Center said life-threatening storm surge is expected to continue along the North Carolina coast and tropical storm conditions will continue along the coast and inland.

5:49 a.m.: WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said some southern counties could continue to see 1 to 2 inches of rain per hour Saturday.

5:38 a.m.: Lindsey Listrom with the North Carolina Electric Cooperatives, which handles power outages for 93 of the state's 100 counties, said crews are in place, but need to wait for conditions to improve to begin power restoration.

"Conditions can really delay the start of our crews working because we have to make sure our crews are safe," she said. "We're just monitoring the storm and as soon as the teams can get in and make repairs, they'll do that."

5:26 a.m.:With downed trees, downed power lines and power outages, the New Hanover County sheriff is calling the aftermath of Florence "an absolutely dangerous situation." A county-wide curfew remains in effect until 6 a.m.

5:21 a.m.: A Facebook post from officials at Cape Lookout National Seashore shows that the only road onto Harkers Island has been significantly damaged by Florence. The North Carolina Department of Transportation is aware of the issue and will try to find a solution Saturday, officials said.

5:20 a.m.: A tornado warning has been canceled for Wayne County.

5:13 a.m.: The Cross Creek in Fayetteville is beginning to swell as water approached the banks. The creek feeds into the Cape Fear River, which is expected to reach flood stage sometime next week as a result of rainfall from Florence.

5:04 a.m.: Officials said 780,390 are without power across the state.

5:03 a.m.: A tornado warning has been issued for Wayne County until 5:45 a.m. A tornado warning issued for Lenoir County has been allowed to expire.

4:56 p.m.: Tropical storm warnings have been canceled for Franklin, Nash and Edgecombe counties.The warning remains in effect for Chatham, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Richmond, Sampson, Scotland, Wake, Wayne and Wilson counties.

4:45 a.m.: Flood waters are beginning to recede in New Bern, where hundreds of people had to be rescued Friday as portions of the city were under water.

Rain in New Bern has stopped, at least for the time being, and the focus will soon shift to cleaning up the downed trees and power lines.

4:38 a.m.: Durham Drive is closed in Raleigh as flood waters washed over the road.

4:37 a.m.: A tornado warning is in effect for Lenoir County until 5 a.m.

4:33 a.m.: WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said that even though the center of Tropical Storm Florence is in South Carolina, North Carolina will continue to get the brunt of rain from the system, especially in the southern counties.

4:30 a.m.: According to NOAA, the Neuse River at Kinston could reach near-record levels by mid-week and may continue to climb.

4:22 a.m.: WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said an additional 5 inches of rain are possible throughout the day Saturday in Raleigh and an additional 9 inches of rain are possible in Fayetteville.

Gardner said the Cape Fear River, which is currently at 2.4 feet is likely to reach 22.9 feet by Monday. Flood stage for the river is 14 feet.

4:12 a.m.: At least 170 roads are fully or partially closed in Wilmington as a result of downed trees and power lines.

4:09 a.m.: Crews with the Fairview Fire Department were working to move a massive tree that was blocking the intersection of Cedric Drive and Woodmill Run in Wake County. The road is the only way in or out of a nearby neighborhood.

4 a.m.: WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss said that Tropical Storm Florence is continuing to move southwest at 5 mph and has sustained winds of 60 mph.

"With the wet ground and the heavy rain that could still occur, that could lead to some trees down and maybe even some power outages," Moss said.

The center of the storm is over eastern South Carolina, but rain is continuing to fall throughout the state and is particularly heavy in the southern counties.

Since midnight, peak wind gusts reached 32 mph in Raleigh and 47 mph in Fayetteville. For the remainder of the day, wind gusts could reach about 38 mph in Wake County and up to 50 mph in southern counties. Those speeds will remain consistent until winds die down Sunday.

Moss said a tornado watch remains in effect for counties to the south and east of the Triangle until 7 a.m. and tropical storm warnings remain in effect for a large portion of the state.