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The Waccamaw River already is at flood stage. What impact could Hurricane Irma have?

After Hurricane Matthew in October, Horry County police stood guard at Lees Landing Road where residents helped each other move belongings to higher ground to prepare for the Waccamaw River flood.
After Hurricane Matthew in October, Horry County police stood guard at Lees Landing Road where residents helped each other move belongings to higher ground to prepare for the Waccamaw River flood. jlee@thesunnews.com

The Waccamaw River is already at minor flood stage due to the recent tropical rain that was almost named Irma.

But now a new storm named Irma is a hurricane churning at top speed in the Atlantic Ocean and headed for the U.S. coastline, emergency officials say that river residents need to be prepared and keep a close eye on the forecasts.

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service river gauge near Conway showed the Waccamaw just above 11 feet at minor flood stage.

Major flood stage is when water reaches 14 feet. The record for flooding on the Waccamaw was set at 17.9 feet last year after Hurricane Matthew.

“We are continuing to monitor it at this time, but it’s still too early to determine whether or what impact we will get from Irma, if any,” said Brooke Holden, spokeswoman for Horry County Emergency Management.

The river is steadily declining, and Holden says it’s too soon to tell how another foot of rain next week would impact the river.

“We’re not certain at this point. We don’t want to talk about anything that may or may not happen. The forecast is too far out,” Holden said.

County officials are conducting regular conference calls with local and state emergency officials, she said. They also are monitoring the Intracoastal Waterway, which is fed by the Waccamaw.

“What we are really focusing on is for citizens to prepare themselves for an event,” Holden said.

Make sure evacuation plans are in place, and stay updated with the river forecasts as well as warnings from the National Hurricane Center.

Holden said residents should make sure they are getting their weather information from credible sources like the hurricane center, National Weather Service and the county’s emergency management Facebook page.

“We’re seeing some misinformation on social media and we really want to make sure our residents seek official credible sources for information,” Holden said.

The forecast Tuesday showed Irma moving across Florida by this weekend with different models still in disagreement.

According to warnings issued by the City of North Myrtle Beach, the potential for dangerous surf and strong rip currents off the Grand Strand will begin increasing this week.

If the forecast shifts and the Carolinas are impacted, that time frame would be between Monday and Tuesday.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson

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