Feeling wind and rain, Cumberland County on alert for tornado threat

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— Cumberland County leaders have declared a state of emergency and opened an Emergency Operations Center Thursday morning to track the advent of Tropical Storm Michael in North Carolina.

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The forecast is for high winds, with gusts of up to 50 mph possible, that could down trees and cause power outages. The storm is moving swiftly but could dump heavy rain over the Sandhills that could cause flash flooding over ground still saturated from Hurricane Florence.

A tornado watch including that area has residents on alert.

The good news is the Cape Fear River is below flood stage and water was flowing over the Hope Mills Dam.

It’s quite a contrast to just weeks ago, when water from Hurricane Florence poured over all five fingers of the dam that slow the flow of Rockfish Creek downstream. The water was well over the flood stage, but the the dam held up.

That was a relief to nearby property owners, who survived a major breach in the dam at Hope Mills Lake in 2003. The dam was rebuilt, but it failed again in 2010.

Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner said on Wednesday that the dam performed as designed during Hurricane Florence, and there are no plans to lower the lake level as Michael passes.

Schools are closed across Cumberland County Thursday as a precaution to keep people off the roads, but there no plans to open any storm shelters in the county.