Rising SC floodwaters overtop roads, dams and water plants. And the worst is yet to come.
NICHOLS – David Hunter stopped at the barricade on U.S. 76 in Marion County, parked the car and began to walk.
A quarter mile down the road the Little Pee Dee River was doing its best to overtake the concrete bridge near Nichols, the town of less than 400 that is flooding for the second time in three years.
As he approached the water’s edge, Hunter gazed downstream. His house sat just out of view, a few hundred yards down a road that now traced the edge of the raging river energized over the weekend with a deluge of more than 20 inches of rain from Hurricane Florence.
Hunter could only imagine what the floodwaters would do again to his retirement home along the banks of the river.
He and his wife, Margaret, just moved back in January after they renovated their home after feet of water broke inside with massive flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
They didn’t even have time to get the new back splashes installed in the kitchen.
“That’s the chance you take living on the water,” Hunter said.
Portions of the Pee Dee region continue to see floodwaters from Florence rise as rivers from Chesterfield County to Horry County spill over their banks into neighborhoods, businesses and highways.
Florence deluged southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina over the weekend after making landfall near Wilmington, N.C., as a Category 1 on Friday. The storm is blamed for 34 deaths, including six in South Carolina.
More than 200 roads and bridges were closed from flash floods in low-lying areas and flooding from the Pee Dee, Lumber, Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers. Some lanes on Interstate 95 in Dillon County are closed.
Six dams in the Pee Dee have breached in the floodwaters. More than 6,000 military personnel – including active-duty and National Guard troops – are assisting the state’s efforts.
While the Pee Dee River at Cheraw was expected to recede after cresting at 46.6 feet, nearly 20 feet above the flood stage, the flooding had knocked out the town’s water supply. State emergency leaders expect other towns to lose their water as well as the overflow of water dumped by Florence flows south.
For some areas, the worst has yet to come.
Conway, the Horry County seat, is expecting the Waccamaw to reach up to 21 feet next week – 10 feet past flood stage and three feet past the record set during Matthew.
The Little Pee Dee is expected to rise high enough to cut off U.S. 501 at Galivants Ferry later this week
Near Nichols where the rising Lumber River has emptied the small town, the Hunters remained hopeful that the damage wouldn’t be as severe this time.
But flooding forecasts from the National Weather Service on that stretch of the Little Pee Dee River show the water rising another three feet by Friday.
That spells trouble for more than just the Hunters.
Just across the river from their home is the tiny town of Nichols. And just downstream the Little Pee Dee collides with the Lumber River.
By Tuesday, routes into Nichols were cut off. The residents of the town had fled days before, with the destruction of Matthew still fresh in their minds.
Many of the residents around Nichols never thought history would repeat itself so quickly – the Hunter’s included.
“I thought it was going to be another hundred years,” David Hunter said.
Seanna Adcox and Andy Shain contributed.