Flooding begins along Waccamaw as river forecast to break Matthew’s record

National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters patrolled the Waccamaw River on Monday, flying low and slow, looking for people stranded in their homes by rising waters.

In Conway, National Guard troops in boats and big trucks helped people get out of flooded homes and up to higher ground.

The Waccamaw River in Conway is expected to rise higher than the record set by Hurricane Matthew two years ago. The National Weather Service forecast put the river level at U.S. 501 in Conway at almost 19 feet by the end of the week, above the record of just under 18 feet set in 2016.

Homes flooded from Matthew are bracing for the river to rise again, even as people along the beach return from evacuations and get back to normal after Hurricane Florence moved through the Carolinas last week, dumping several feet of rain in some areas.

The Little Pee Dee River in Galivants Ferry is also rising. The Weather Service forecasts the river to hit major flood stage, 12 feet, late Tuesday into Wednesday. The river is forecast to reach above 15 feet by Friday.

The record for the Little Pee Dee River in Galivants Ferry, set just after Hurricane Matthew, is about 17 feet.

Communities in North Carolina are already seeing severe flooding. All the rain from Florence forced several stretches of I-95 and a number of other major roads to close for flooding in North Carolina and South Carolina, making travel complicated for those returning and giving an ominous sign for those living downstream.

Dozens of homes were flooded along the Waccamaw in Conway on Monday afternoon. Up river in Longs, a golf course along the river flooded and rising waters continue to creep up streets along the river and the swamps around it.

Crews are working along Highway 501 as it passes the river in Conway to construct a barrier of large sandbags and installing pumps in hopes that the road will not get cut off by rising waters.

Chip Holt lives on a creek near the Waccamaw River in the Wampee community. The creek, a few hundred yards from the river, had backed up, and water blocked a nearby street. “We went to Tennessee for the storm,” he said.

He moved to the river a year ago, and had to evacuate from near the beach after Hurricane Matthew. He said the previous owners sent him pictures of the house showing the river water covering the yard after Matthew.

He said they got home at 4 a.m. Monday after a long drive from Tennessee that took them around through Atlanta to avoid flooded roads in North Carolina.