Carolina blue, sunny skies the past couple of days have barely masked what lies below for Bladen County and throughout the Cape Fear region.
Just three days after Hurricane Matthew, a Category 1 storm that hugged the East Coast from Floriday to the Carolinas, brought more than a foot of rain and sustained winds topping 60 mph through the area, residents throughout the county have been all but cut off from the rest of the region by washed out or overrun roadways that are impassable.
Bradley Kinaw, director of Bladen County Emergency Services, said early Tuesday morning that numerous residents of the Tar Heel and White Oak areas were evacuated on Monday evening and that, on Tuesday, residents of the southeastern portion of the county — primarily in the Kelly and Rowan areas — were being evacuated.
Though some areas inundated with water since the storm have begun to recede, Kinlaw said water from the north is being pushed toward Elizabethtown down the Cape Fear River. He said the river crested above Elizabethtown on Monday evening, but wasn’t expected to crest in Elizabethtown until sometime on Tuesday.
“It’s still a very dangerous situation,” Kinlaw said. “People really need to stay off the roads unless it’s an emergency. We need to keep roadways clear for emergency personnel to do their job.”
Nearly every road leading out of the county — with the possible exception of N.C. 87 — has been closed. That includeds Hwy. 211, N.C. 41, Tar Heel Road and N.C. 53.
Kinlaw added that there have been no more fatalities associated with the storm. On Saturday, two people died when the vehicle they were traveling in was swept off Rosindale Road in Clarkton into a swollen creek, and they were unable to escape the vehicle. The driver did manage to get out.
One ray of hope came in the form of power to a good portion of the county. Although numbers weren’t available, Kinlaw said there are only sporadic outages across the county as of Tuesday morning. Included in those outages is the downtown Elizabethtown area.
Raymond J. Farrell, a resident of Gray’s Creek who came to stay with friends in Elizabethtown on Sunday, was at Food Lion on Monday to get water and ice. He said his property in Gray’s Creek was flooded and had started to seep into his home.
“I had to get out and thought coming to Elizabethtown would be best,” he said. “But it’s bad all over. There are a lot of devastating stories to be heard.”
In other areas:
Schools: Students awoke Tuesday morning to the news that all Bladen County Schools will remain closed throughout the week, as is the case for schools throughout the region.
Food: The only grocery store reported open was the Food Lion on West Broad Street in Elizabethtown.
Gasoline: The lone gas station open was the Minuteman on West Broad Street in Elizabethtown.
Emergencies: The county’s 911 service was restored Monday.
The weather forecast for the rest of the week and into the weekend is calling for mostly sunny skies through Sunday, highs in the low to mid-70s during the day and lows in the 40s overnight.