ELIZABETHTOWN — “We absolutely dodged a bullet,” said Bradley Kinlaw on Friday, referring to Thursday’s epic thunderstorm activity in the Cape Fear region.
Kinlaw, the Bladen County Emergency Services director, said despite the heavy rainfall around the county, things didn’t escalate to anything serious.
“We came out of it very well,” he said. “We had a few minor roads covered with water for a while in the Bladenboro area, but there were no major issues anywhere.”
The same could not be said for other areas in southeastern North Carolina.
Perhaps the hardest hit were Cumberland and Hoke counties, where flooding caused numerous evacuations, washed out roadways, closed schools for a second day and opened numerous shelters.
Kinlaw and numerous Bladen County first-responders spent most of Thursday in the Fayetteville and Spring Lake areas — where a state of emergency was declared — assisting with evacuations and other duties. According to the National Weather Service, areas of Cumberland County received more than 10 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.
In Hope Mills, where construction work had been under way at the Hope Mills Lake dam, flooding not only filled the bottom of the lake but also submerged the construction equipment and materials.
Back in Bladen County, where nearly 7 inches of rain poured down in some areas since Wednesday, all county schools were given early release Thursday at 1:30 p.m. In addition, all county athletic events for Thursday were postponed and West Bladen’s home varsity football game for Friday was forced to move to Teachey against Wallace-Rose Hill because of a flooded field.
Kinlaw, who said he expected the Cape Fear River and other area waterways to crest early in the week, added that more could be coming.
“I haven’t seen the latest weather forecasts, but I think things will stay fairly clear through the weekend,” Kinlaw said. “But we also have to turn our attention to (Hurricane) Matthew very soon.”
Matthew, the 13th named storm of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened to Category 2 hurricane status at 2 p.m. Thursday and was located in the Caribbean. On Friday, forecasters said the storm continued to intensify and were ready to name Matthew a Category 3 hurricane.
Matthew’s path continued to be in question Friday, as models show it could veer west into the Gulf of Mexico or turn northeast and skirt the East Coast, depending on numerous variables.
According to The Weather Channel, “ensemble forecast guidance is lessening the threat of a Gulf of Mexico track, but it is still too far out to rule out an East Coast threat later next week … (but) even if Matthew stays sufficiently off the East Coast, a threat of dangerous swells, coastal flooding, and beach erosion is likely to be in play along parts of the Eastern Seaboard.”