Lynches River recedes; last evacuation orders lifted in Florence County
FLORENCE, S.C. – All Florence County residents who evacuated because of rising flood waters associated with Hurricane Florence are able to go home – the last of the mandatory evacuation orders was lifted Sunday afternoon.
At approximately 2:45 p.m., Florence County Emergency Management officials lifted the evacuation order for Zone 2 neighborhoods along the Lynches River – neighborhoods from the U.S. 52 bridge downstream to the U.S. 378 bridge.
Evacuation orders for Lynches River Zone 1 and for Black Creek were lifted Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday, the river missed – though not by much – its projected crest and started to return to its banks. The 16.8 foot crest, with a forecast crest of 17.1, was well below the 21.2 foot record. By early Sunday afternoon, the river had fallen to minor flood stage and was forecast to drop entirely out of flood stage by Monday morning.
As the crest moves down river toward the Great Pee Dee River, EMD spokesman Levi James said officials were monitoring the situation in Zone 3 – from the U.S. 378 bridge downstream to the S.C. 41/51 bridge at Johnsonville.
“Zone 3 is in good standing, but we are going to keep a watchful eye on the flood levels,” James said.
“American Red Cross has closed three shelters – Coward Community Center, STARS Gym and Mt. Clair Missionary Baptist Church – but Johnsonville First Baptist Church is on standby mode,” James wrote in a release on the county’s preparedness as the flood waters slowly drain toward the beach.
Black Creek dropped out of flood stage late Sunday afternoon.
Both Florence County streams had been fueled by rains in their upper basins. Black Creek originates at Lake Robinson in Darlington County, where Duke Energy Officials had been discharging large quantities of water that passed through Darlington County on its way through Florence County on its way to the Great Pee Dee River.
The Lynches River originates in Lancaster County and drains that area of the Midlands along with areas around Charlotte in North Carolina.
The Great Pee Dee River, which directly drains much of Florence, Marion, Chesterfield and Dillon counties, was forecast to drop out of major flood stage overnight Sunday into Monday morning.
Across the border in North Carolina, most rivers had crested and were receding through various flood stages as the water drained toward the Atlantic Ocean at Wilmington, North Carolina, or into South Carolina through the Great Pee Dee, Lumber, Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers.
The Lumber River at Lumberton is forecast to steadily fall throughout the week but to remain at flood stage through Friday, though that is from observations, as the river gauge is out of service.
At Nichols, the Little Pee Dee River, to the east of Nichols, and the Lumber River, to the west, continued to fall after flooding Nichols for the second time since 2016.
While many communities can expect to see water levels fall throughout the week, Conway and Georgetown haven’t seen the worst of it yet.
“The [Waccamaw] river continues in major flood and has exceeded levels from Hurricanes Matthew and Floyd,” according to rivers briefing issued by the National Weather Service office in Wilmington. “The river will continue to rise and could exceed levels form Hurricanes Matthew and Floyd by about four feet Wednesday. The crest is expected to be around 22 feet.”
On Sunday, Horry County Emergency Management Division officials warned residents along a line from U.S. 501 south to S.C. 544 and the southeast along S.C. 707 toward Garden City to prepare for possible flooding.
The Great Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers near Bucksport in Horry County are both rising rapidly and approaching record levels, according to the National Weather Service’s hydrological Website.
South Carolina Department of Transportation crews who are using improvised dams made from plastic sheeting, sand bags and concrete barriers to actively defend U.S. 501 through Conway from the Waccamaw River are preparing the same approach for the U.S. 17 bridge over the Waccamaw River at Georgetown.
“SCDOT, Georgetown County Emergency Operations and the South Carolina National Guard have developed a plan to keep open U.S. 17 for a period of time as the flood waters rise at U.S. 17 crossing over the Waccamaw River in Georgetown,” according to a post on the agency’s Facebook page. “The plan is designed to delay the closing of the bridge for as long as possible. It is expected that the flood water will overtop the roadway barriers at a point in time and require the closure of the bridge to traffic.
“Based on current forecasts, we anticipate flood waters to impact the bridge mid-week next week.”
On Sunday, SCDOT crews with support from National Guard members reduced the road to one lane in either direction and started construction on the barrier.
“Heavy congestion and long delays are expected in this area, and caution is urged for motorists traveling through the work zone,” according to the agency’s post.
The Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee rivers empty into Winyah Bay at the U.S. 17 bridges spaced approximately 1,000 feet apart at Georgetown.