The Grand Strand is getting a merciful dry spell from the rain, but more flooding is coming for some communities as the Waccamaw River is expected to crest late Wednesday.
No more precipitation is expected for the area until Friday night when there is a 30 percent chance of showers, said Steve Pfaff, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C.
“We’re feeling pretty good about the drying trends we’re seeing in [weather] models,” Pfaff said.
But the rising river will continue to create major flooding. The Waccamaw River in Conway is expected to crest at 15.7 feet Wednesday and into Thursday.
“This would be the third highest crest in history and exceeds levels experienced during the 1998 El Nino event. However, it is about 2 feet below [Hurricane] Floyd levels [in 1999],” Pfaff said in a brief released 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Pfaff said flooding will worsen in the Lee’s Landing, Riverfront South, Pitch Landing and Savannah Bluff communities, and that flood waters will begin to affect homes north of Conway on Riverside Drive.
Swamps will also be heavily flooded.
Flooding will occur in residential areas off U.S. 501 Business, Highway 905 and Highway 90 from the river, and water levels one foot deep are expected to surround about 20 homes in the Savannah Bluff area.
River flooding is predicted to strike near a few homes on Oak Street in Conway, as well as at Punch Bowl and Pitch Landing, Pfaff said.
Horry County officials are urging residents of low-lying areas along the Waccamaw River to seek higher ground before the river rises.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said. “Our rivers are going to be rising. ... We’re going to have some significant flooding that’s going to take place, so I don’t want our citizens to become complacent.”
To help residents in flooded communities, teams of county police, State Law Enforcement Division agents and National Guard members will be stationed at 16 checkpoints throughout the county. County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said a list of those locations will be released to the media once the teams are in place.
Those checkpoints will be places where residents can ask questions or request help.
“This is a time of unprecedented historical moments,” Lazarus said. “I’ve been in Horry County for over 40 years. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Bourcier said county officials are monitoring the river situation very closely and some riverbank residents have already self-evacuated while others are choosing to stay in their homes.
“Horry County Fire Rescue, Horry County police and the Department of Natural Resources continue to monitor those communities and will provide assistance as needed, including assistance with evacuations. Officials are deterring people from site-seeing in those locations by car and by boat. Boat wakes can cause additional damage to property and people are highly encouraged to stay away unless you are a property owner,” Bourcier said in a release Tuesday afternoon.
Georgetown officials are also monitoring river flood levels and regularly speaking with weather authorities.
“Flood waters will begin to overflow Highways 52 and 261 causing some closures. Some evacuations may become necessary in the Kingstree area,” Pfaff said in a briefing about Black River on Tuesday morning.
Pfaff said flood waters from the Black River are expected to affect residential streets in Kingstree, including Singleton, Screven and Blakely. Overflow from a canal on East Main Street near the railroad crossing could damage some stores in the area, authorities said.
Georgetown County, working with hydrologists and the National Weather Service, is monitoring the river levels, Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach said.
“We will notify residents immediately if at any time it appears their safety may be threatened by river flooding. At this time, no mandatory evacuations have been ordered. Anyone who feels unsafe where they are can evacuate voluntarily. If you feel your safety is threatened, don’t wait to be told to leave,” she said.
From midnight Friday to 8 a.m. Tuesday, Longs got the most rain at 23.74 inches and Galivants Ferry had the least at 9.79 inches in Horry County, according to Pfaff’s total rainfall amounts. The Georgetown area received the most rainfall in the southwest portion of the county at 21.13 inches and Pawleys Island got the least at 11.81 inches, records show.
A cold front also breezed into the area as predicted on Tuesday pushing moisture out and bringing highs in the mid to upper 70s for the week, forecasters said.
“At least it looks like for the recovery effort temperatures should be very supportive,” Pfaff said.
Authorities said even without the rain, cleared roads were flooding again and worsening already-flooded areas because of high tide Tuesday afternoon. Creeks and small streams were rising Tuesday afternoon as high tide waters stopped flood water drainage into the ocean, weather officials said
Pfaff said the values of high tide will get lower and lower over the days to come, and while some renewed flooding happened from Tuesday’s high tide, officials are mainly concerned with the rivers, which are seeing near- record flood levels.
“We’re going to be at flood stage for a long time now,” Pfaff said of area rivers.
Shelters still open
Horry and Georgetown counties were still operating at OPCON 1 levels Tuesday morning, which means an emergency situation is in effect and poses a threat to the counties.
Shelters also remain open until further notice in Horry County, according to Bourcier who provided the following information on locations:
• Risen Christ Lutheran Church, 10595 North Kings Hwy. in Myrtle Beach, just south of Barefoot Landing
• Beach Church, 557 George Bishop Pkwy. – Use Harrelson Boulevard to access the church. If you are planning to stay in this shelter, please drive to the back of the church and look for the adventure building and enter at the back door.
• Conway Recreation Center on Mill Pond Road between Hwy. 378 and Hwy. 501
Shelters in Georgetown County open until further notice include:
▪ Beck Recreation Center, 2030 Church Street, Georgetown
▪ Andrews Elementary School,13072 County Line Rd., Andrews
Bourcier said there were about 22 people housed in the shelters Monday night, and Broach said Georgetown shelters harbored about 30 people Tuesday morning.
Broach said Georgetown first responders received about 268 911 calls Monday, and saw 981 911 calls Friday through Sunday.
Surveying the damage
Broach also said damage assessment teams are surveying county roads, and there are about 89 road projects and counting.
“There was a lot of damage done by this,” she said.
Horry County damage assessment teams are also going out through the week to process damage done to residential and commercial structures in the unincorporated areas of the county. Bourcier said Horry County Public Works and Stormwater Department officials are also doing damage assessments on paved and unpaved road networks.
She also said Horry County Engineering Department officials will be on the beaches Wednesday surveying beach erosion along the coast. Bourcier said it could take several days to compile a countywide assessment for the number of structures affected and the estimated cost damage throughout the area.
She said 35 teams made up of code enforcement officers and assessors are going out to survey more than 70 subdivisions, looking at structural damage.
North Myrtle Beach seem to be improving Tuesday morning since the area was hit hard with heavy downpours Friday night.
“All roads are open and no visible damage to public infrastructure,” said Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach city spokesman.
Dowling said there was some erosion to the beach, particularly in the Cherry Grove section of the city.
Bourcier said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing help to those impacted by the flood living in Horry, Georgetown, Charleston, Dorchester, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland, or Williamsburg counties and said those in need of federal assistance can apply at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-462-7585 for TTY.
Staff reporter Charles D. Perry contributed to this report.