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‘You just know it’s going to happen’: Conway scrambles ahead of possible floods

Watch Air Force crew check Myrtle Beach from the air

A crew from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia conducted a “familiarization” flight over the Myrtle Beach area on Sunday, September 16, to prepare for any rescue missions for which they may be called to.
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A crew from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia conducted a “familiarization” flight over the Myrtle Beach area on Sunday, September 16, to prepare for any rescue missions for which they may be called to.

Patrick Reynolds walked around his brother Perry’s yard, wearing bright yellow waders and a jacket as rain began to fall Sunday morning, remnants of Hurricane Florence.

Puddles were forming, making access from the driveway to the garage difficult.

The duo worked to tie everything outside down, putting as much as they could into the shed so it wouldn’t float away if waters reached stilts holding up the Waccamaw Drive house.

“You just really have to prepare early for it,” Patrick Reynolds said. “So it’s just a matter of being here one time, trying to get where you can because eventually that road will be inaccessible and you cannot get down here at all.”

Despite experiencing flooding in the past, the Reynolds brothers are concerned waters will reach the house, which is well above ground level.

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Conway resident Patrick Reynolds discusses the damage Hurricane Matthew did to properties along Waccamaw Drive in Conway. Josh Bell jbell@thesunnews.com

In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit the Grand Strand as a Category 1 storm, flooding out Waccamaw Drive with waters that came about halfway up the Reynolds’ shed, which is propped up on cement blocks. At that level, the water was about a foot from reaching the house.

Flood waters from Florence, which made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane and has weakened to a tropical depression, are expected to rise 2 feet higher than they did during Matthew. It could take more than a month for the water to recede to a normal level.

Patrick Reynolds said flooding on the street stretches down to the Super 8 motel on U.S. 501, causing people to check on their homes by kayaking or boating to them.

“Some people will take the chance with their boats and they’ll patrol down here to just check their properties and see just how far they’re looking at with damages and stuff like that,” Patrick Reynolds said.

During that time, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources checks for looters, Patrick Reynolds said. On Sunday, department officials were out knocking on doors to get a count of how many people were planning to stay in their homes, despite the recommendation that they leave as waters begin to rise.

Just down the street, Brenden Wellings and his 7-months-pregnant fiance Emy Chamberlain packed tools and tied down the air compressor. They plan to move what they can to a Carolina Forest home, where they will stay through the possible floods.

The couple, who lives there with Chamberlain’s mother and her fiance, lost everything underneath their home on stilts in Matthew, and are bracing for the possibility of losing their belongings again. The 6-foot-high line from the water level in Matthew is still on the wall beneath the house.

“I mean, you can’t really do anything about it,” Wellings said.

And Chamberlain added, “Living here, you just know it’s going to happen.”

Ankle-deep and almost knee-deep puddles were all along Waccamaw Drive on Sunday. Most folks who live there were outside, preparing.

“Sometimes you want to do that because you look at everything and once you’ve had to go through it several times, but it’s a beautiful part of the river to live on and everything, and that’s what really keeps everybody down here and wanting to come back home,” Patrick Reynolds said.

Lee’s Landing

Water rushed south on the Waccamaw River at Lee’s Landing on Sunday.

Families on River Road scrambled to pack everything underneath their homes.

The water was well above backyard docks at some homes, and making other docks rise above normal level.

Michael and Mary Hamlon worked hard to move everything under their stilt home. With a motorcycle shop under their home, now a bedroom is full of parts and pieces and tools.

Neighbors several houses down prepared for their fourth flood, moving lamps and beds upstairs.

Doretha Lewis, who has lived on River Road for about 10 years, said she felt sad she had to move all of her stuff yet again. She plans to stay with her son during the flooding. Her home is not on stilts, and there are two bedrooms downstairs.

“We have to empty the bottom, then we go to my son’s and live,” she said. “To come back in and live, it takes a while because you have to clean up everything.”

The Waccamaw River reached its minor flood level Sunday morning and is expected to surpass its record flood stage, and the Little Pee Dee was approaching its minor flood level Sunday and is projected to come within a foot of its record level set in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

The river was measured at 11.42 feet in Conway at noon Sunday,

Its flood stages begin at 11 feet, and it is expected to rise to its major flood stage of 14 feet by Wednesday night and could exceed its record level of 17.9 feet set after Hurricane Matthew by 3 feet around Sept. 26, according to National Weather Service.

Hannah Strong: 843-444-1765; @HannahLStrong, Megan Tomasic: 843-626-0343; @MeganTomasic
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