The effects of Hurricane Matthew will be felt in Sampson County for a long time, with roads washed out, houses and properties flooded and downed power lines and damaged light poles laying across roads and yards across Sampson County.
Many residents were doing their best to clean up what they could in their yards Sunday morning, as tree-cutting businesses and power company crews began to make their way around Sampson. Clinton City and Sampson County school officials also informed all students and staff of closings for Monday, and that will likely continue, at least for the county schools, in the days to come.
As of 3 p.m. Sunday, the emergency shelter at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center and the animal shelter closed. Emergency shelters at Union Elementary School, Hobbton Middle School, Midway High School and Sampson Middle School will remain open through the night and tomorrow morning.
“At that time, we will assess the need to keep those shelters open,” Assistant county manager Susan Holder stated. “We do anticipate additional flooding in this area.”
She said the Sampson County offices would be closed Monday, “as we are not likely to have power on the County Complex, and because a number of our employees are engaged in hurricane response activities.”
Officials with Sampson County Schools made the call early Sunday morning, announcing that schools would be closed Monday. Around 2 p.m., Faith Jackson, community liaison with Clinton City Schools, announced that school for city students would also be closed Monday.
“Officials are riding around to the school sites accessing any damages and making the repairs they can readily make,” Jackson shared.
Curfews also are continuing. The County of Sampson has issued a curfew for the County of Sampson from 6 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday; the Town of Roseboro has issued a curfew from 7 p.m. Sunday until 7 a.m. Monday; the City of Clinton has issued a curfew from 7:30 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday; and the Town of Newton Grove has issued a curfew from 6 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday.
Mike Damon, a resident of McKoy Street, stood by helpless Sunday morning as a massive tree rested over several power lines, some of which were severed and resting across most of the street, the reason for power outages in the surrounding area. Portions of that same tree fell on his house during the tornadoes of 2011. Some five and a half years later, Damon said he was thankful no one was hurt.
“It came right through the roof. I didn’t like this tree after that,” he recalled. “I was lying in my bed wondering if it would come through (last night).”
It did indeed come down, this time across the roadway and heavy power lines.
“I think it’s time to get this thing down completely,” Damon said.
As he surveyed the damage, people sped by rubber-necking, some even hitting one of the dangling wires severed from the damage. Damon looked in disbelief. He was one of many that had to wait as crews made their way around Clinton and several other areas around Sampson County, from Garland to Newton Grove. The majority of places did not have power, but outages were sporadic depending on lines hit.
“We’re not getting over this one,” Damon’s neighbor told him. “It’s a lot worse than I thought it was.”
She saw that businesses in downtown Clinton were wrecked, with several having windows busted out. The Bee Hive was one of them. Employees were there shoveling glass off the sidewalk extending along College Street Sunday morning. Clothes in the business were completely exposed to the outside following the damage. The same could be seen at other business in Clinton and across Sampson County.
Busted windows were nothing compared to what was seen at Parkside Grille in Newton Grove, which was completely submerged due to flooding around the I-40 exit and extending toward the town. Newton Grove and Garland were almost islands by Saturday night. Salemburg was also underwater. It was tough to get most places, as U.S. 701 was flooded going into both Newton Grove and Garland, and N.C. 24 was flooded between Turkey and Clinton.
N.C. 24 was closed at the county line in Autryville on Sunday, with water flowing over the bridge.
The storm pummelled Sampson County throughout the day and into the night Saturday, bringing winds in excess of 50 mph and, by some estimates, well over a foot of rain to the county. Numerous roads were impassable by early Saturday evening, completely destroyed or blocked by large trees. Those roads were “too many to name,” Assistant county manager Susan Holder said late Saturday. (See detailed, updated list in separate story)
In Clinton on Sunday morning, large trees blocked College Street near Walgreens, and Sunset Avenue just past Sunset Avenue School heading toward the bypass. Another tree was resting on power lines on N.C. heading out of Clinton toward Roseboro. Groups with Asplundh tree service were surveying the damage Sunday.
Still another large tree had fallen over the roadway on N.C. 24, just east of Underwood Road, with just a portion of the eastbound lane and shoulder open. Caravans of vehicles were taking turns driving over a downed power line and around the massive horde of trees.
The National Guard in Sampson County assisted with “numerous water rescues” Saturday as Clinton Police Department and Sampson County Sheriff’s authorities implored residents to stay off the roads. On Sunday, Sheriff Jimmy Thornton continued that plea.
“Please continue to stay off the roads,” the sheriff in a prepared statement Sunday morning. “The majority of roads are still impassible and still pose a danger. The majority of businesses are still without power and closed. Please do not get out and try to ride around to survey the damage for yourselves, you will only add to existing problems. Please allow emergency workers, (Department of Transportation) and utility workers to do their job without adding an additional burden. We are continuously responding to people driving into sink holes.”
Despite those words of caution, the roads were packed across the county Sunday morning as people took a look for themselves, some likely venturing out to find power and some food.
Some of Thornton’s deputies along with the Greensboro Fire Department were on Bonnetsville Road, near the site of one of the many washed-out roads Sunday morning, surveying damage. The road is completely gone at Halls Pond on Bonnetsville, between Salemburg and The Avenue. Washed-out areas were also on Edmond Matthis Road, Bass Lake Road, Mount Moriah Church Road, Five Bridge Road, Fleet Cooper Road and numerous others. Countless more heavily damaged or almost completely obstructed.
Downed power lines were a sizable issue everywhere, as were water line breaks.
“Public Works is aware of numerous water line breaks and will be working diligently to make repairs; however, this may be a very lengthy process,” the county stated on its Facebook Sunday morning. “We appreciate your patience as we work through the challenges caused by the hurricane conditions.”
A boil water notice was put out for water consumers of Sampson County Water & Sewer District I, including Clinton, Roseboro, Turkey, and Sampson County Water & Sewer District II, encompassing Dunn and Garland of Sampson County.
According to the county, those areas are “experiencing periods of low pressure and outages” in the distribution system due to Hurricane Matthew. “Periods of low or no pressure in the distribution system increases the potential for back siphonage and introduction of bacteria into the water system,” the county warned.
When water is restored, the Division of Water Resources said consumers should boil all water used for human consumption (including drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation) or use bottled water. Vigorous boiling for one minute should kill any disease-causing organisms that may be present in the water.
On Sunday, City of Clinton manager Shawn Purvis asked that city residents avoid areas with downed trees and power lines and also called for water conservation due to the “significant strain” on the city’s wastewater plant.
Newton Grove Mayor Mayor Gerald Darden also made a request for residents to save water in his area too because maintenance workers are having problems with a local pumping station.
“We’re pumping water as we speak, but we can’t pump but so much,” Darden said Sunday afternoon.
The town’s generator also went out, leaving many residents without power. Darden said he’s been a resident of the town for many years, but has never gone through this kind of water damage.
“I’ve never seen my town like this before in water,” Darden said. “I’ve been through Hurricane Fran and it wasn’t this bad as far as water.”
“It could’ve been worse, but it was bad,” said Arnold Melvin, a resident of Bonnetsville Road, said of Matthew’s impact. His house is between a large downed tree and severed power lines on one side and the complete washout at Halls Pond. He said he has walked along the road to go to Dollar General in Salemburg, but that is no longer possible.
“The Carolinas were torn up,” he said.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.