Normalcy returning for many in Florence County, rivers rising for others

September 18, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – As rivers rose in some areas, life started to return to normal in other areas in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

On Monday morning, residents along Black Creek in Florence County were under a mandatory evacuation order.

On Monday morning, a Florence County Sheriff’s deputy sat at the intersection of TV Road and East Black Creek Road to guard the neighborhood while other deputies rode a circuit of evacuated neighborhoods on a Honda side-by-side ATV to ensure the safety of the evacuated property.

North of Florence County at Cheraw State Park, residents downstream of Lake Juniper were evacuated over concerns the dam at the park could fail.

Paul McCormack, the director of South Carolina State Parks, said park managers drew the lake down two feet ahead of Hurricane Florence but that the lake level started to rise quickly Sunday afternoon, and there was concern it would top the earthen dam, which could lead to erosion and failure.

He said the park notified DHEC of the problem and that threatened areas were evacuated.

On Monday morning, the level of the lake was down again, McCormack said, but thunderstorms were forecast for the area Monday afternoon.

Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said Monday morning that the utility continued to discharge water from many of its dams to protect the integrity of the structures.

While with some of the utility’s dams that was a conscious decision, other dams were designed with spillways that allowed the free flow of water once the lake behind the dam reached a certain level, he said.

One of the streams involved in the discharge of water is Black Creek, which originates at Lake Robinson before it flows through Darlington County and through several neighborhoods in northeastern Florence County before flowing through the Country Club of South Carolina and into the Great Pee Dee River.

On the southern end of Florence County, SCDOT crews started a project Sunday to protect U.S. 378 as a viable route into Myrtle Beach and possibly the only viable route into Myrtle Beach in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

Near the Lynches River bridge east of Lake City, crews were installing a concrete barrier that would be bolstered with sandbags to hold back rising river levels based on a worst-case scenario river projection, said Florence County Emergency Management Division Director Dusty Owens.

A similar project was underway along U.S. 501 east of Conway to hold back flood waters.

Owens said that the U.S. 378/U.S. 501 corridor into Myrtle Beach was the most easily defended from rising flood waters.

Other roads into northern and central Horry County showed flood issues. U.S. 76/S.C. 576/U.S. 501 in Marion County was closed by flooding between U.S. 76 and U.S. 501, and S.C. 9, which runs along the North Carolina state line into northern Horry County, was closed at multiple points in the counties miles before it gets anywhere near the coast.

In Horry County S.C. 544 between Conway and Myrtle Beach appeared to be closed, according to the SCDOT traffic information system.

That would leave U.S. 17 from Georgetown as the only primary route open to Myrtle Beach if the U.S. 378/U.S. 501 corridor floods.

The state’s online traffic information website indicated that traffic backups associated with the construction project continued Monday.

South Carolina DOT officials Sunday and Monday didn’t respond to requests for additional information on the construction project.

After the storm

“Key message for the public – just because the storm has exited and much of the rainfall has stopped doesn’t mean the danger has ended,” Steven Pfaff, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, North Carolina, said in a post-storm briefing issued Monday morning. “The dangers include the continuation of flooding, clean-up and repair dangers.

“The point is, there are many ways to become injured after a hurricane.

“Life-threatening flooding will continue through the next couple of days as the runoff from historic rainfall has nowhere to drain. Some areas may receive additional rainfall today as well, but not as much as the past couple of days. Many areas will remain cut off by flooding and road damage.”

Monday’s weather forecast for Florence included a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms through Monday evening, while communities north of Florence had up to a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms through Monday evening.

The briefing indicates that flood warnings that have been posted for most Pee Dee communities could be lifted Tuesday as rain chances drop from the weather forecasts under clear skies.

Rising waters

Many rivers in northeastern South Carolina are either at or above flood stage now or are forecast to get there in the near future, according to a rivers briefing issued by the National Weather Service forecast office.

In Florence County, Black Creek was forecast to remain at flood stage through at least Friday. The Lynches River, which had been forecast to not reach flood stage, is now forecast to reach up to moderate flood stage by the weekend.

The Lynches River is forecast to remain below flood stage through Thursday, when it expected to quickly rise and possibly reach a major flood level of almost 15 feet by the weekend.

At the forecast level of 15-plus feet Friday evening, flood waters could affect portions of North Old Georgetown Road, Roundtree Road and Ben Gause Roads near Effingham and New Hope. If the river reaches more than 17 feet, it will affect homes along those roads and also could flood areas in Sumter County.

East of Florence, the Lumber River at Lumberton had maxed out the river gauge Sunday evening, according to the briefing.

“Levels will gradually subside through the week but should remain above major flood stage,” National Weather Service hydrologist Richard Neuherz wrote in the rivers briefing.

The Little Pee Dee River at Galivants Ferry along the Marion County/Horry County line is forecast to crest approximately one foot lower than it did during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, but it still is expected to crest at major flood stage and remain there at least through Friday.

Between the Lumber River and the Little Pee Dee River, Nichols could get hit by major flooding – again.

Nichols was inundated with feet of water following Hurricane Matthew as the two rivers, which converge just south of the Marion County community, both flooded and backed water up into downtown Nichols and many surrounding neighborhoods.

The Waccamaw River at Conway hit moderate flood levels Sunday evening and, by Tuesday night, is expected to be at major flood levels.

“Could exceed levels from Hurricanes Matthew and Floyd by about three feet 10 days from now,” Neuherz wrote in the briefing.

Update hourly