LUMBERTON, N.C. — As Florence continued to pound the Tar Heel state with high winds and heavy rain on Friday evening, volunteers and National Guardsmen were outside the West Lumberton Baptist Church. Volunteers, many of them residents, got the call for help earlier Friday morning and showed up in big numbers.
But they were in a race against time because they needed to get sandbags to the most critical area.
"We are trying to get ahead of it," said Andrew Collier. "The water levels are expected to be higher than Matthew, so we are trying to sandbag this opening up... trying to save homes and businesses."
Two years ago,dumped 20 inches of rain on Lumberton. According to city officials, the town's protective levee never breached during that storm. But where the railroad passes through, the levee drops down for tracks and that's where they say the flood waters from Matthew rushed in.
Florence is expected to drop even more rain than Matthew did.
"We are trying to plug the hole in the levee," said Corey Walters, deputy director of public works for Lumberton.
Walters said the town reached out to the railroad company for permission to close up the levee on Tuesday and they were denied. They then reached out to the governor, who issued an order to protect the area.
"We basically got a lot of work to do," Walters said. "No time to do it and really not a whole lot of time to think about what we are doing and how the best way to do it is."
CSX Transportation, the railroad, issued a statement saying they are providing "safe access" to the community to "minimize flooding." The Lumber River is projected to hit flood stage sometime Saturday and crest at nearly 25 feet.