As residents return to the Myrtle Beach area following Hurricane Florence, floodwaters also made their first appearance and are expected to get worse over the coming week.
Flood concerns caused Conway leaders to clash with Horry County, state and federal officials over mitigation efforts on the U.S. Highway 501 bridge. City officials say the county and state will not provide data that shows that man-made barriers won’t increase flooding in the city.
“We need to make sure we’re not adding any water that could be avoided,” said Conway City Administrator Adam Emrick.
The bridge, which experienced previous flooding, is needed to get goods into the Myrtle Beach area, Horry County Council Mark Lazarus said. He added that the data shows mitigation efforts “will not cause additional homes to flood in the city of Conway.”
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Conway officials said the information requested hasn’t been sufficient, causing fears that 1,000 more city homes will see more flooding than during Hurricane Matthew.
Horry County dignitaries use Hurricane Matthew as an example for residents, saying if their homes flooded during that storm’s aftermath it will likely occur over the next week. Forecasters predict both the Waccamaw River in Conway and Little Pee Dee River in Galivants Ferry will reach major flood status and approach record heights.
The record rainfall in Horry County occurred as Hurricane Florence — which was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached the Myrtle Beach area — slowly moved through the county over three days.
Areas of North Carolina saw the worst of the storm with 30 inches of rain and flooding. Some of the floodwater is expected to flow down to the Horry County area next week.
There were double-digit reported storm-related deaths in North Carolina. Two people died in the Loris area from exposure to carbon monoxide from a home generator, and a man died in an overturned truck in Georgetown County.
Myrtle Beach area residents who evacuated before the storm returned to the area as Gov. Henry McMaster lifted an evacuation order. Traffic was slow moving on some stretches into town, and many stores remained closed on Sunday. Some stores and gas stations that were open were crowded and offered sparse supplies.
Residents deal with early flooding
Signs of flooding already were present in Conway, which is still recovering from damage from Hurricane Matthew. Lex Johnson lives near Crabtree Swamp said floodwaters already were approaching his house. The city blocked off the road in front of his home from traffic because of the conditions. During Hurricane Matthew, he said, the floods reached his steps. Another 2 feet higher would cause damage inside his house.
“You got to ask for all the prayers and thank Him when you see grass,” he said.
A similar scene unfolded in Socastee, where Terri Straka spent $40,000 on repairs to her home following Hurricane Matthew. That time, her home escaped severe damage from the hurricane but was pummeled later by unexpected high water levels in nearby rivers and waterways.
She’s anticipating the same — or worse — from Florence.
“We’re sitting ducks, just waiting,” Straka said.
In the Rosewood Estates area, Janice Davis says she isn’t preparing for floods. She’s not worried about her home, though the property flooded during Matthew.
“I’m from here,” she said. “I’ve been through Hazel and Hugo, Matthew. We’re resilient in Horry County.”