The South Carolina governor lifted the evacuation order for Myrtle Beach and Horry County, but flooding could make getting back to the area difficult.
Florence has weakened to a tropical depression, but it is expected to continue bringing rain as it moves west through South Carolina and North Carolina.
The Sun News has heard numerous reports of flooding along U.S. 501 Sunday afternoon. State officials say they have a detour on U.S. 501 north of Galivants Ferry, sending motorists down S.C. 41 to U.S. 378 and then into Conway.
Myrtle Beach city spokesman Mark Kruea said in an email Sunday afternoon: “Team members have determined that US 378 will likely be the only available route to provide access into Horry County. Additionally, the US 501 Bypass is planned to serve as the only route crossing the Waccamaw River that leads into the Myrtle Beach area.”
The South Carolina Department of Transportation plans to build a 1.5-mile flood control barrier along U.S. 501 in Conway to try to keep rising waters from the Waccamaw River off the road.
“If that highway gets flooded,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said, residents from around Myrtle Beach “won’t be able to get back.”
“They need to go on and get back, because they might not be able to get back later,” he said at a press conference Sunday. He said the second phase of Florence is beginning with rising river waters and the state hopes to keep at least one road open from I-95 to Myrtle Beach.
On Sunday, northbound U.S. 501 was closed for work on the flood barrier as the road passes over the Waccamaw River into downtown Conway.
S.C. Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said in a Saturday press conference that the barrier should be completed Monday. Current forecasts show the Waccamaw could rise to 3 feet above U.S. 501 on the main road from Marion to Myrtle Beach, Hall said.
The section of U.S. 501 over the Little Pee Dee River near Galivants Ferry could also flood the highway. The National Weather Service forecasts the river level will hit minor flood stage between Monday and Tuesday and could hit major flood stage Wednesday.
North Carolina transportation officials warned people against using GPS directions because some apps could lead people to roads closed by flooding.
As of Sunday morning, U.S. 17 North from Charleston to the Myrtle Beach area appeared clear, according to the SCDOT, as did U.S. 521 into Georgetown and U.S. 378 from I-95 to Conway.
The SCDOT plans another flood barrier along U.S. 378 over the Lynches River, just east of Lake City.
South Carolina Highway Patrol officials advised people returning to the northern Grand Strand to use S.C. 22 and 31.
Trooper Sonny Collins said on Twitter that people should be patient on the roads. “Traffic congestion is expected during re-entry,” he tweeted.
“Use extreme caution if traveling this morning. Water is collecting on the road in many locations,” Collins tweeted Sunday morning.
Flooding has closed sections of I-95 through the Carolinas. Sunday morning the SCDOT closed a section of I-95 in Dillon County from Exit 181 to Exit 190 and warned on Twitter, “There is not a passable detour at this time.”
“The continued impacts of Hurricane Florence have caused flooding throughout Dillon county,” the SCDOT said in a tweet, asking people to avoid the area.
Large sections of I-95 in North Carolina are also closed because of flooding. The North Carolina Department of Transportation warned people who plan to travel through the state to detour west through Tennessee and West Virginia.
“This is an extremely long detour, but it is the detour that offers the lowest risk of flooding at this time,” the NCDOT said in a statement. See the NCDOT website for updates on detours around flooded highways around North Carolina.
I-40 from I-95 to Wilmington is closed, according to the NCDOT.
Sections of U.S. 74, just north of the South Carolina-North Carolina border, also has sections closed dued to flooding.
Charles Duncan: 843-626-0301, @duncanreporting