Hurricane Florence left Richmond County with several damaged or impassable roads Tuesday. But despite the threatening weather, Emergency Services Director Donna Wright reported no storm-related deaths.
The roads still impassable as of Tuesday afternoon were Osborne Road near U.S. 1, Derby Road near Thunder Road, Holly Grove Church Road and Nicholson Road near Woodside Drive, Wright said — but waters are receding.
Nicholson Road crosses about an 8-foot-deep section of Hitchcock Creek and by Sunday morning, the force of the water had washed out the county water line under the road, sending it about 15 yards down the creek and partly collapsing the road.
County water customers in the Ledbetter, Wiregrass, County Home Road, N.C. 177 North, Marston and Hoffman areas experienced low water pressure over the next two days, said Public Works Director Jerry Austin.
Tuesday morning, a crew from L and B Contracting was out putting in a temporary water line to restore regular water service until the permanent fix could be completed later this week, said Billy Bledsoe, who was in charge of the project.
Bledsoe said the water line became overloaded and that all the lines under the road washed out. It could take the N.C. Department of Transportation months to fix the road, he said.
The county also suffered “limited damages to structures,” Wright said.
Florence was the first big test for the county’s new Emergency Services Complex, completed this summer. The complex received roughly 400 911 calls each day from Thursday through Saturday, a 200 percent increase in the average call volume for those days, Wright said.
“Our new center served our overall mission well,” she said.
County Manager Bryan Land said that at one point, the complex fielded Moore County’s 911 calls, in addition to Richmond County’s. He touted the coordination among Emergency Services, fire and police departments, as well as the Department of Social Services, but the weekend wasn’t without its chaos.
Apparently someone put up a Facebook post falsely claiming that Duke Energy had notified residents that Blewett Falls Lake dam in western Richmond County had been breached. The post gained traction, creating a wave of panic as residents tried to make sure their family members in the area had evacuated.
On Sunday morning, Emergency Services released a statement on Facebook saying that “there is no issue with the dam or any other water retaining structure,” but Land still thought it necessary Monday to put to bed all doubt and get straight from Duke Energy what had occurred.
“(Duke Energy) advised that was bogus information released by someone else on Facebook, not Duke Energy,” Land said.
In fact, a dam did break nearby, but it was the BV Hedrick dam on N.C. 145 in Lilesville, according to WSOC.
More impassable roads. As of Tuesday, 12 primary routes and 108 secondary routes remained impassable across Highway Division 8, said spokesman Andrew Barksdale of the N.C. Department of Transportation. The number was down from more than 200 closures Monday. Highway Division 8 comprises Richmond, Chatham, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph and Scotland counties.
“Our crews have been working hard since the storm struck to get our roads safely reopened as quickly as possible,” said Chuck Durmas, Division 8 maintenance engineer. “We are beginning to see flood water recede, so we’ll be able to reopen more roads soon.”
Highway closures in Richmond County include N.C. 73 and N.C. 109. Transportation officials advise drivers never to drive on flooded roads and to seek alternate routes should they encounter barricades.
For more information on road closures, visit the NCDOT website.
Emergency call-outs. The Rockingham Police Department responded to 40 storm-related calls between Friday and Sunday, though more calls since have come in regarding debris in the roads and power outages, Lt. George Gillenwater said.
The Rockingham Fire Department responded to 72 storm-related calls between Friday and Monday, two or which were water rescues, Chief Harold Isler said.
The East Rockingham Fire Department responded to 28 storm-related calls between Friday and Sunday, none of which involvedwater rescues, said Firefighter Brenden Watson, who was authorized to report the figures.
Cordova Fire Rescue did not have final figures on total calls available Tuesday but said it had conducted five water rescues during the weekend, Deputy Chief Jeremy Chance said.
The Ellerbe Rescue Squad initiated four water rescues and responded to one motor vehicle accident that was storm related, Chief Bryan Cloninger said.
The Hamlet Police Department could not provide its numbers by press time. and the Hamlet Fire Department could not be reached Tuesday.
Richmond County received support from a high-water team from the National Guard, as well as a 14-man swiftwater rescue team.