Much of Johnston County was without water and power in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, and County Emergency Services had carried out more than 173 water rescues by Sunday afternoon and expected that number to continue to rise.
Sinks were dry throughout parts of Johnston after line breaks in the southeastern part of the county after Matthew dropped more than a foot of rain. County Emergency Services said those with water should conserve it, and any water used should be boiled for at least one minute.
Two deaths were reported in Johnston. One was Diamond Shuntelle Bennett of Selma, whose car was swept away in floodwaters on Interstate 95 near mile marker 85 on Saturday night, according to State Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Jeff Gordon. Bennett was found shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday.
The other was one of five people who got stuck inside a Nissan Versa that became submerged in floodwaters on Cornwallis Road near N.C. 42 in the Cleveland community, Gordon said.
Never miss a local story.
“Four escaped and were able to cling to trees until rescue arrived,” Gordon said. “The other they’re still looking for and is presumed deceased.”
Johnston County Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Madsen said the county had opened its Emergency Operations Center and was focused on saving lives Sunday.
“This is still a very active event and we’re just trying to get to people currently trapped right now while keeping a close eye on the rivers and creeks,” Madsen said.
Madsen said additional flooding is expected as those waterways crest in coming days.
“People may think because the water is going away that it’s safe, but it’s not,” Madsen said. “The best thing to do is remain at home if you can and stay away from water because it can rise quickly.”
County Emergency Services was working with the state and federal government to secure clean water for the county, Madsen said, and was offering refuge to hundreds in shelters across the county.
All Johnston schools will be closed for students and staff Monday and Tuesday.
Many roads and bridges throughout Johnston County still were closed even after waters receded. Both directions of I-40 and I-95 near Benson were closed.
The Holt Lake marina in Four Oaks was submerged Sunday morning. The bridge over the Neuse River leading into Smithfield was open Sunday morning but closed late Sunday afternoon after dozens of people lined the bridge to get a glimpse of the flooded river and take photos.
In Smithfield, a state of emergency had been declared by Mayor Andy Moore and a curfew was set for sunset Sunday to sunrise on Monday. Many in town still were without power Sunday afternoon and while some were without water as early as Saturday afternoon, others said they didn’t see an interruption in water service until Sunday morning.
The town was awaiting Duke Energy’s repair of a transmission line that supplies the Hospital Road substation before town crews could do additional work to restore power. The town expected many residents to be without power until at least Monday afternoon.
The Neuse River in Smithfield rose to cover the Town Commons. Homes and businesses in low-lying areas near the river downtown had flooded Saturday, but much of that water had receded by Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service predicted that the Neuse would crest on Monday at 28.5 feet, a record, according to the weather service, which recorded the highest the river had ever been at 27.4 feet in 1996 after Hurricane Floyd. The Neuse near Clayton and Goldsboro also was expected to rise.
Jonathan Gaskins and his family have lived at 404 S. Third St. near the Neuse in Smithfield since 2003, and had never seen flooding as severe as what they got on Saturday and Sunday. Gaskins was out clearing debris and water still flooded his yard.
“It was worse last night,” Gaskins said Sunday afternoon. “It flooded the road and up closer to the house. We got a little water in the basement.”
Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr said pollution in the river was likely a result of the severe flooding.
With the river expected to continue rising, Smithfield’s spokesman Tim Kerigan said the town might have to shut down its water plant for up to three days. If that happens, Kerigan said the town would get water from the county.
Smithfield was busy issuing evacuation requests for different areas of town. A shelter was open at Smithfield-Selma Senior High School, 700 E. Booker Dairy Road. Officials asked those who need evacuation assistance to call 919-989-5050. Other shelters had been opened at Princeton High School, 101 Dr. Donnie H. Jones Jr. Blvd.; Kenly Fire Department, 101 W. First St.; and Benson Conference Center, 303 East Church St.
Trash and yard debris services were expected to continue as normal in Smithfield.
Restaurants across Smithfield shut down Sunday since they couldn’t serve customers without power. Some, like Scott Gandolf of Gotham’s Deli on Market Street, had generators running to keep food in refrigerators and freezers from spoiling.
Smithfield’s loss was Selma’s gain, though, as dozens and dozens of people packed the McDonald’s and Bojangles.
Daisy Johnson, an employee at the Bojangles, came to work at 8 a.m. Sunday and was heading home in the afternoon after a busy day.
“It feels like over 1,000 (people),” she said, indicating the drive-through lines circling the building backing out into the street and the people crowding inside. The restaurant had power and running water, Johnson said, and got a delivery truck Sunday.
“We haven’t run out yet so we’re good,” she said. “People are coming from all over because they don’t have power or water.”
Rose and Jay House of Smithfield, along with their 3-year-old son, Justin, were having lunch at the Bojangles because they had been without power since about 6:30 p.m. Saturday and recently lost water.
“There’s some trickling,” Rose House said. “But there’s hardly any water pressure. We had some flooding in our yard, but nothing in the house.”
“And our TV broke!” Justin House exclaimed, noting he was bored without it.
Marissa Summerlin and her wife, Jessica, came all the way to Selma’s Bojangles from Goldsboro where they had just regained power.
“It’s a mess in parts of Wayne County,” Marissa Summerlin said.
Courtney Bradley and her 2-year-old son, Kayden, were having lunch with Elijah Sutton and discussed the damage over chicken and biscuits. All three live in Smithfield.
Bradley said she had water but no power. The opposite was true for Sutton. Flooding on his street stranded Sutton and his neighbors until Sunday, he said.
Bradley, who works at McDonald’s on Bright Leaf Boulevard in Smithfield, said employees were moved to the Selma McDonald’s after water flooded in and caused computer issues at the Smithfield restaurant.
“The computers started sparking when the water got inside,” she said.
Sutton said he went to Smithfield-Selma Senior High School with Diamond Shuntelle Bennett, who was killed in the flooding Saturday.
“We went to school together,” Sutton said. “She was on her way back from work. The last thing she said was, ‘The car is replaceable, I’m not.’ ”
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett