Florence Sunday flood watch: Here’s when NC’s rivers will set flood records

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Several rivers in North Carolina overflowed Sunday morning as Florence continued to dump rain across the southeastern part of the state and into South Carolina.

None of the major rivers in the Triangle — Crabtree, Marsh, Swift or Walnut creeks — were on the verge of flooding, according to the The National Weather Service’s reports early Sunday. Crabtree Creek at Old Wake Forest Road, for example, had fallen to 9.48 feet after hitting 11.6 feet only 24 hours prior.

But the NWS reported major flooding in rivers on or near the coast as Florence, which was downgraded from a tropical storm to a depression on Sunday morning, hovered over region — putting the Cape Fear, Little and Trent rivers on the verge of breaking all-time records.

The Cape Fear is expected to break records in Duplin County and around Fayetteville, near where the Little River is also located and where mandatory evacuation notices were issued Saturday afternoon.

In Fayetteville, the Cape Fear River early Sunday morning was 3 feet away from reaching flooding levels. It hit 32 feet Sunday morning, rising 18 feet in 24 hours. As of Sunday morning, the National Weather Service expected the flooding to worsen over the early part of the next week, as the river eventually reaches a height of more than 62 feet there — which would be 3 feet higher than the river rose in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew. The all-time record for that part of the Cape Fear is 68.9 feet, set in 1945.

The Little River, which runs through Spring Lake and hugs Fort Bragg, hit 22 feet early Sunday. But the NWS expects it to reach 34 feet by early Monday — easily usurping the record of 29 feet set after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

In Trenton, meanwhile, the Trent River hit 27.8 feet early Sunday — just below the record 28.4 feet that was set when Hurricane Floyd hit in 1999. The NWS early Sunday didn’t offer a prediction of how much more it might rise, but reported that major flooding has made most roads impassable.

Even in places where records aren’t expected to be broken, like the Tar River in Greenville, the NSW reported “devastating flooding similar to Hurricane Floyd.”

“Numerous homes adjacent to the river in the city of Greenville are inundated. All roads in and around Greenville are flooded and impassable. Tributaries back up and flood homes, businesses, and roads in areas that are miles away from the river,” the NWS reported on its website early Sunday morning.


A map of flood plains in the Triangle region. While much of the flooding from Hurricane Florence is expected to occur further to the south and east, the Triangle will still experience some flooding, particularly from flash floods in flood-prone areas.

Neil Nakahodo nnakahodo@kcstar.com

Early Sunday, flash flood warnings were in effect for Wake County and several counties south of it.

Several counties could see an inch of rain per hour on Sunday, ABC11 meteorologist Chris Hohmann told viewers on Saturday. The rotation of Florence continues to pick up moisture from the ocean before dropping it on eastern NC, Hohmann said.

Here’s a look at how the NSW expects the rains from Florence to continue affecting major eastern North Carolina rivers:

In Goldsboro, the Neuse River reached moderate flooding levels of 21 feet early Sunday after rising from 17 feet early Saturday. That part of the Neuse is expected to reach 24 feet Sunday night, causing major flooding that is expected to last for days. The all-time record for flooding in that location is 29.7 feet, which was during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Estimates from early Sunday have the river peaking at 26.8 feet.

In Lumberton, the Lumber River is experiencing major flooding at West 5th Street after rising from 10 feet Saturday to 19 feet early Sunday. The NWS didn’t provide an estimate for how much more the 5th Street waters might rise. Just outside of downtown, Lumber River waters reached 17 feet early Sunday but are expected to reach 24 feet by midday Monday. The record water level for that part of the Lumber River is 24.39 feet, set in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew.

In Kinston, the Neuse River swelled to 20 feet early Sunday morning — up from 12 feet early Saturday. Major flooding is expected to occur there on Sunday, with waters rising to 23 feet by Monday. The all-time record for flooding in that part of the Neuse is 28.3 feet, which was during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. NWS estimates early Sunday predicted waters will peak at 24.9 feet by Friday.

In Greenville, the Tar River held steady at 11 feet early Sunday after rising from 5 feet early Thursday. The NWS considers minor flooding to occur at 13 feet and major flooding to occur at 18 feet. The NSW tempered its estimates for the Tar early Sunday, predicting it won’t reach 12 feet over the course of the week. That’s far under the record of 29.7 feet set in 1999 during Hurricane Floyd, or the 24.5 feet that part of the river reached in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew.

In Duplin County, the Cape Fear River near the Chinquapin area early Sunday was on the verge of reaching the all-time record of 23.5 feet. The record was set by Floyd in 1999. The river early Sunday hit approximately 23 feet, and the NWS expects it to rise to 28 feet by midday Monday.

In Harnett County and Lillington, the Cape Fear River was at 9.7 feet early Sunday morning. But the NWS expects it to hit moderate flooding levels at 25 feet by midday Monday. That’s more than the 19.4 feet the river there rose to during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The all-time record for flooding in that part of the Cape Fear is 33.2 feet, which was in 1945.

For resources more detailed than some provided by the National Weather Service, the U.S. Geological Survey also frequently updates a searchable, interactive map of dozens of river sites all over North Carolina at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nc/nwis/rt.

That site also has information on precipitation levels, water quality readings and more.

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: will_doran