Cumberland County, Fayetteville and the town of Wade have issued a mandatory evacuation order for all residents within one mile of the banks of the Cape Fear River and the Little River within Cumberland County.
Fayetteville and Cumberland County leaders held a news conference Saturday afternoon to implore residents to take the threat seriously and prepare to leave if they live in areas expected to be inundated by floodwaters.
“This is for real,” said Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin. “We are seriously concerned with the flooding. Please do not become complacent. Please do not become comfortable.”
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The Little River area spans from the Cumberland-Harnett County Line to Highway 87 in Spring Lake, Highway 401 in Linden, Highway 217 and Luke Road. Residents are being asked to leave immediately.
“The worst is yet to come, as the flood waters from other areas are accumulating north of the county and filling the river basins beyond their capacities,” the local governments said in their prepared statement. They ordered all people to leave by 3 p.m.
Those who remain behind do so at their own risk, officials said, noting that rescue crews may not be sent into the flooded areas after evacuation.
Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins can invoke a curfew at her discretion, Colvin said.
In Hope Mills, the town manager sent out a press release at 11:15 Saturday night urging residents who live near the town’s lake to seek shelter on higher ground.
“We expect flood waters going to overtake the dam possibly sometime Sunday,” Melissa Adams, the town manager, said in a statement emailed to the press.
In a phone interview with The N&O Sunday morning, Adams said that cresting over the dam doesn’t mean it’s failing. She urged Hope Mills residents to take shelter while they still can.
Hope Mills “became an island” after Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016, Adams said. The lake was not filled when Matthew hit.
All lanes of Interstate 95 are closed from exits 65 to 81 and alternate routes are posted. Drivers are cautioned that high water has been reported off N.C. 210 in the Spring Lake area.
Hawkins said people should remain indoors, in their residences or in shelters.
The county’s seven shelters are filling up, with 853 people in them as of 9 p.m. Saturday. The Smith and Kiwanis recreation centers are at capacity, but the other five shelters had room, particularly Pine Forest and Seventy-First high schools, which were half full at 9 p.m. The county shelters can hold 1,225 people.
Residents who need wheelchair accessible vehicles can request a ride provided by FASTTRAC!, Cumberland County Fire Department or the EMS Striker Team. Residents must contact the Hurricane Florence Information Line at 910-678-7657 to schedule transportation. Transportation services will resume at 8 a.m. Saturday.
Just across the Cumberland County line, in Harnett County, officials issued mandatory evacuation orders to thousands of people in about 1,100 homes, assistant county manager Brian Haney said Saturday.
And while the Cape Fear River that is causing so much concern for Fayetteville also flows through Harnett County — including right through the middle of the county seat, Lillington — officials here are more worried about flooding from the Little River in the county’s southeastern corner.
Flooding is expected to begin Saturday night and continue into early next week. “The projected crest (of the Little River), which is expected Monday, was set six feet higher than the previous record — which was during Hurricane Matthew, when we had some pretty bad flooding,” Haney said.
Two out-of-town swift water rescue teams were in Harnett County Saturday preparing for rescues. A team from Cary was in Dunn and a team from Davie County was in Lillington, although neither team had been been on any calls as of early Saturday afternoon.
So far, the worst effects of Hurricane Florence in this area have been some downed trees and partially flooded roads. The county has opened several shelters for evacuees, although one shelter at Triton High School had to be evacuated itself due to a leaky roof, Haney said, with the storm refugees there moving to other local shelters.
In Lillington, much of the city had lost power by Saturday but the downtown sports bar County Seat was open, and locals flocked there for food, college football games and drink specials that included a “Cape Fear Flood,” the bartenders’ hurricane-defying take on a dark-and-stormy.
N&O reporter Paul A. Specht contributed