One Florence county stream crests, another set to flood this weekend

September 19, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – Black Creek crested at a little more than 17 feet Monday night – record level -- and by Tuesday evening it had receded to 16.4 feet, according to releases from Florence County officials.

The water on the ground Tuesday morning came approximately two feet away from a stripe of orange paint on the pavement that marked where the water had been previously. That mark was evident under mostly sunny skies with a forecast high of 90 degrees.

That drop, though, might be little comfort to residents along Black Creek who are currently evacuated from their homes because of the flood caused by Hurricane Florence and its aftermath.

“I’ve been here since ’78, and this is the worst I’ve seen it,” said Chuck Baker, a resident of Split Rail Drive, which is off East Black Creek Road.

“I’m on a little knoll there,” Baker said after he showed a Florence County Sheriff’s deputy proof of residency. “It’s all the way around my house. It’s never been there. This is the closest to being under my house than it’s ever been.”

Baker and his family remained in their home through Sunday’s evacuation but had to leave Monday.

“They cut the power last night about 10 p.m.,” said Baker, who had a boat parked at another entrance to the neighborhood. “I’m going back in now. I have a generator, and I’m going to plug in my refrigerator and freezers, because they’re full from where we got ready for it. I’m going to save it. … Try to save it.”

Baker said he and his family had things packed because of talk about the dam at Prestwood Lake that feeds into Black Creek.

“If that would have busted while we were there, we’d have been taking a real bad chance of not getting out,” Baker said.

Baker said he was also going in to take care of his dogs.

“I hunt, and I have hunting dogs out there,” he said. “I have a buddy coming, and he’s going to help me. I’m going to bring them out on my boat, and he’s going to take them to his house.”

Baker cautioned anybody heading into the flood to beware of fire ants that are floating in the flood waters.

“Be careful, because they are absolutely awful,” he said. “There’s places this big floating around, and it’s nothing but a wad of ants,”

He held his hands approximately 18 inches apart.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

Neighborhoods flooded by Black Creek were not limited to the areas along East Black Creek Road and other areas in Quinby.

Approximately half of Cypress Bend Road in the Country Club of South Carolina was under water. Portions of the golf course were also underwater.

Black Creek is forecast to drop below moderate flood stage by Sunday. County officials have not indicated at which river level the mandatory evacuation order will be lifted.

Lynches River

While residents along Black Creek dealt with their flood, residents along the Lynches River through central and southern Florence County were put on notice Tuesday morning that they needed to be prepared for their own flood, set to hit this weekend.

“Lynches River is forecast to reach flood stage by Saturday and continue to rise,” Levi James, a Florence County Emergency Management Division spokesman, said through a news release issued Tuesday. “The forecast currently shows a rise near levels reached during the 2016 Hurricane Matthew flooding event. …

The record was set then at a little more than 21 feet.

“Residents who live in the areas in and around Lynches River should make plans now to evacuate as river levels rise. Lynches River flood stage is 14 feet. At 15.5 feet floodwaters on Lynches River will affect portions of North Old Georgetown, Roundtree and Ben Gause roads near Effingham and New Hope. The roads will be impassable in places. Locations downstream such as Half Moon Landing and the Neck should expect flood waters later in the week.”

Lynches River County Park reopened Tuesday after rangers spent Monday cleaning up debris generated by several days of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence last week.

During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the nature center at the park stayed high and dry but lost power. Park workers teamed up to evacuate the animals that live in the nature center to more suitable quarters where they had electricity and clean water.

The Lynches River is expected to remain below flood stage for most of the week before it starts to rise quickly early Saturday morning on its way to major flood stage early Sunday morning at 19 feet. it could crest higher Sunday night. At that level “extensive flooding will occur” and water probably will back up into Sumter County.

Rivers and streams

On Tuesday, National Weather Service forecasters extended flood warnings until at least Thursday for all of the Pee Dee except Williamsburg County.

A chance for rain and thunderstorms remained in the weather forecast through Wednesday morning because of a weak front that was to pass through the area.

“There is a continued chance of showers and thunderstorm until the front exits,” Steven Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote in a briefing on the weather situation.

“Rainfall amounts will average a quarter inch or less, with isolated higher amounts with any thunderstorms. Much dryer air will move into the region, with no significant precipitation expected later this week.”

Daytime highs were forecast to reach into the upper 80s throughout the week with overnight lows in the upper 60s to near 70.

Rivers throughout northeastern South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina were forecast to remain well above flood stage through at least the weekend.

The Lumber River at Lumberton over the weekend maxed out the USGS’s gauge on the river before subsiding to 24.7 feet. Flood stage at Lumberton is 13 feet.

The Little Pee Dee River at Galivants Ferry was running at 10.32 feet on Monday and is forecast to crest Friday night at approximately 15.4 feet, below the 17.1 foot record set during Hurricane Matthew.

The Little Pee Dee River and the Lumber River converge south of the Marion County town of Nichols, which suffered devastating floods associated with Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

On Monday afternoon, a recently installed river gauge at Nichols showed a rapidly rising river level of 23.77 feet for the Lumber River at Nichols. Without a wealth of historical data, though, there is no projection of a crest, and there is no indication of what the flood level is at the site as there would be with gauges that have been in place longer, said Richard Neuherz, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington.

On Monday, the Waccamaw River in Conway was at more than 15 feet and was forecast to continue rising until it hit a record of approximately three feet above its previous record of 17.9 feet set during Hurricane Matthew. The river is expected to crest in the next seven to 10 days.

The Waccamaw River and the Lynches River are both the focus on an SCDOT construction project to protect the U.S. 378/U.S. 501 corridor into Myrtle Beach from rising flood waters. Temporary barriers along a stretch of the road in Florence County as well as a portion of U.S. 501 in Conway have been erected in an attempt to hold back the rising waters.

The U.S. 378/U.S. 501 corridor is the one most easily defended from rising waters in an attempt to be able to get supplies into the coastal community.

“If this prediction (about the Lynches River crest) is correct, Lynches flood waters will not reach the barrier constructed on Highway 378, so it will have no impact on people’s homes,” Florence County Emergency Management Division Director Dusty Owens wrote in an update to county officials.

The Great Pee Dee River at Pee Dee is forecast to hit major flood levels Friday night and to crest over the weekend.

The Great Pee Dee River at Cheraw was expected to crest at near-record levels Tuesday and then to fall steadily throughout the week and out of flood stage by Friday.

At neither location is the crest expected to impact more than farm and timberland.

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