Nichols residents prepare for hurricane
NICHOLS, S.C. — Nearly two years after Hurricane Matthew, along with flooding from the Lumber River and Little Pee Dee River, forced mass evacuations from the town of 400 people, Nichols residents are preparing for another hurricane.
Mayor Lawson Battle called Nichols a strong community that was getting through adversity as he spoke with state and county officials Wednesday about Hurricane Florence.
“I’m recommending that if people have a place to go, then go ahead and go and don’t even chance it,” he said. “This thing is one of the largest storms the United States has ever seen, especially on the East Coast. Nobody knows what exactly it’s going to do right now, but wherever way it goes right now, we’re going to get some effects and potentially catastrophic. It’s got very good chances of being bad and very good chances of potential flooding again in Nichols.”
Battle said it’s not a mandatory evacuation but a request for the residents’ safety.
More than 120 people had to be evacuated because of flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The Little Pee Dee River reached 16.64 feet, eclipsing a record set by a hurricane in 1928, according to the National Weather Service.
Battle said 230 of 261 homes along with more than 22 business were damaged.
“If it keeps trending the way it looks like it’s going to, those areas that were extremely hard hit by Matthew in portions of the Pee Dee are likely going to see impacts again,” said Steven Pfaff, National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist. “To the extent, we don’t know at this time.”
Marion County Administrator Tim Harper said the Emergency Operations Center is operating at OPCON 1.
“People in low-lying areas who feel they need to start evacuating, then they need to do that now and don’t wait until the last minute,” he said.
County shelters are open at Marion High School, Palmetto Middle School and Creek Bridge High School.
Meanwhile, Nichols residents, like many people in Marion County, are gathering supplies.
“I was flooded in for about seven days,” Brandy Hinson said.
At the time she had a daughter who was just 9 months old.
“I didn’t prepare, so this time I’m not taking a chance,” she said.
Hinson said her home was fortunately spared serious damage.
“This one seems like it’s going to be a whole lot stronger, so it’s a little scary,” she said. “You got to stay calm for the kids. We’re just trying to prepare and do the best we can do. We wasn’t expecting it to turn south.”
Brittany King said she had to go to her sister’s house in Lake View when Hurricane Matthew hit when her son was just 3 weeks old.
“Our house was without power for two to three weeks,” King said.
Sarah Lewis said it wasn’t too bad for her living just outside Nichols, but she is concerned preparing for another hurricane.
“I’m kind of worried because it’s going to be stationary for a while, but I’m just leaving it in the Lord’s hands,” she said. “I’m just praying and hoping it won’t be as bad as it was when Hurricane Matthew came through.”
John Taylor, a Nichols resident, said he remembers flooding that occurred for weeks on end in the town.
“It was rough,” Taylor said. “Power was out for what seemed like forever. I guess it was about two weeks. I saw many people’s houses and lives ruined from that last storm. We will never forget what happened, and that played a part in our decision.”
Taylor said he and his family would evacuate Wednesday.
“We’re not taking any chances,” Taylor said. “Last time we stayed and didn’t prepare as we should have. It turned out to be a terrible mistake. We’re already packed up, and we’ll be on the road and out of here later this evening. I’m ready to hit the road.”
Meanwhile, Darren Livingston, who lives just outside Nichols, said he plans to stay put during the hurricane.
“We’re just going to ride it out,” Livingston said. “It’s a tough call, and we’re a little worried since it could be here for a longer time than before, but we think it’ll be OK.”
Mayor Battle said he has been meeting with county officials since Saturday.
“We’ve been planning and working hard as best as we can,” he said.
Battle remains hopeful as the town deals with another major storm.
“I think it’s going to be very hard on the community, but we will find a way to make it and find a way,” he said. “We’re preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. We’re coming back and we’re doing pretty good.”