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Wet fall weather keeping rivers high in Pee Dee

November 24, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. — Areas of the Pee Dee have been under flood watches and warnings on and off since hurricanes Florence and Michael in early October, and that situation may not improve until the spring.

A normal fall for the Pee Dee would be a dry time. Not so much this year.

“Obviously we’ve had a very wet fall,” said Dave Loewenthal, weather forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, N.C.

Jeffries Creek and Middle Swamp, which pass through central and southern Florence, are both running high and fast after storms since Oct. 1 that have dumped approximately 19 inches of rain on the city.

Black Creek is receding after having been at flood stage at Quinby. The Great Pee Dee at Pee Dee is receding from flood stage but will remain in at least moderate flood stage through Sunday. Lynches River was forecast to crest Thursday near moderate flood stage at 15.5 feet. The Little Pee Dee River at Galivants Ferry was expected to crest in minor flood stage Thursday or Friday and remain there into next week.

Wilmington already has experienced its wettest year on record and a couple more good rainstorms could see it record more than 100 inches of rain before the new year, Loewenthal said. A normal year for Wilmington is 56 inches.

Loewenthal said the rain has left the ground saturated and the swamps, which would normally store excess eater, full. With plants hitting their dormant stage for fall and winter they won’t be able to soak up and evaporate the water — it’ll just have to drain downstream, he said.

“What we need is a couple weeks without rain,” he said. It’s not likely to happen, though.

The winter forecast is for a wetter-than-normal period for the Pee Dee with about normal temperatures, he said.

In keeping with that theme, the weather forecast for the Pee Dee called for rain starting Friday evening and continuing throughout today — something that could have the Florence 7 Benefit Ride run in the rain.

With the ground saturated and the swamps full, rivers will react more quickly to rainfall and several inches of rain over a short time could be enough to push some of them back to flood stage, he said.

“This is just going to take a while to move all this out,” Loewenthal said.

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