Edgecombe County braces as Tar River rises

Leggett Road in Rocky Mount_393875

PINETOPS, N.C. (WNCN) – Edgecombe County is still under a state of emergency Friday after this week’s heavy rains left some areas flooded and the Tar River has yet to crest, county officials said.

Public schools in the county were closed Thursday and are closed Friday as well, officials said.

Several roads throughout the county are impassable.

County officials released a list of state roads that are closed in the county due to flooding. Those roads are as follows:

• N.C. 97 east of Rocky Mount

• Dunbar Road, east of Rocky Mount

• Leggett Road, east of Rocky Mount

• Spring Field Road, east of Rocky Mount

• Cox Avenue, east of Rocky Mount

• Gay Road, east of Rocky Mount

“I’ve been here since ’95 and I’ve been through this same scenario multiple times,” said Charnell Billups of Battleboro. “And it gets old and it’s emotionally draining.”

Waters have started to recede in Pinetops and Rocky Mount Thursday morning but towns like Princeville and Tarboro, who are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, are preparing physically and mentally as the Tar River continues to rise.

“So far, we’ve not had any water,” said Tarboro resident Bonnie Mobley. “We’re just praying that we don’t get any, because everyone here is just paranoid.”

The Tar River has yet to reach its peak in Edgecombe County, officials said.

“It’s to the point where you want to break down and cry, but you got to be strong,” said Ashley Simmons, who was working with her family to get ready to leave their home Wednesday.

With the water creeping closer, they didn’t feel safe staying.

“It’s time to go,” she said. “It’s time to go. I just can’t take it anymore.”

According to county officials, a small amount of water is coming through one of the water control gates at the Princeville dike. A barricade has been put up in front of the gate and water is being pumped back into the river at the same rate that it is flowing through the gate. Officials said that no water has entered Princeville at this point.

According to the National Weather Service, the Tar River isn’t expected to crest in Tarboro until Monday around 8 a.m. At that time, the river is expected to reach 28.5 feet at the Tarboro “Town Bridge”. The estimate has been increased 2.6 feet since Thursday. Major flood stage at the gauge is 32 feet and minor flood stage is 19 feet, officials said.

That predicted crest was down from earlier estimates.

The river reached 36.2 feet after Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and 41.5 feet after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

The reduction in expected flooding brought a breath of relief for many, including the Freedom Hill Community Health Center, where renovations after Hurricane Matthew were just wrapping up as the water rose.

“We really spent six or eight hours on the phone yesterday just decided if we were coming back to reopen May first, or are we going to have to delay this opportunity yet again,” said Laura Owens of the center.

Now the center has sandbags around the facility, but still has hopes of opening on time.

The section of the Tar River in Louisburg crested at 22.8 feet on Wednesday. Flood stage there is 20 feet. The Tar River also crested in Rocky Mount Thursday morning at 25.8 feet. Flood stage is 21 feet.

Officials have now closed an emergency shelter at 500 Davis St. in Tarboro that they had opened following the heavy rains.

Edgecombe County officials are asking all property owners to monitor the flooding situation and to make plans in case flooding occurs in their area. Residents in low-lying areas are being advised to remain on alert.

Officials said that all major updates on conditions in the county will be posted on their website and on Facebook.

Residents can reach the Emergency Operations Center line at (252) 824-0108.

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