Dozens of Conway residents rescued as flood waters rise

First responders rescued dozens of Conway residents from rising waters Monday, a product of flash flooding after a downpour from Hurricane Florence.

The City of Conway had conducted 12 water rescues by noon Monday. Horry County had saved about 25 residents by 8 a.m. And a National Guardsman told The State he had lost count of the Conway residents they had picked up in high-water vehicles.

Many of the evacuations took place in north Conway’s Sherwood neighborhood, where residents watched Monday morning as water steadily rose from the nearby Crabtree Swamp, a tributary of the Waccamaw River.

“I might lose everything I’ve got,” said Jess White, a lifetime Conway resident who has never before had to evacuate the home his grandfather built on Busbee Street.

Like many families in Conway on Monday, White and his family were hauling their belongings to higher ground. Residents here have heard projections that river flooding from Florence, which made landfall in North Carolina on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane, will be worse than Hurricane Matthew two years ago.

The recent flash flooding of the Waccamaw and its tributaries has been enough to persuade many along Long Avenue to leave.

“I’ve been in Conway 50 years, and this is the second time I’ve seen the water this high,” said Joseph Guidera, who was helping to move his son out of Busbee Street.

Several neighbors were hoping to stay, even as floodwater covered their front yards and seeped into crawlspaces. Water had crept down Busbee Street and into Margo Strong’s front yard, but she wanted to see it rise to the driveway before deciding to evacuate.

“We’re just sitting here and waiting,” said the nurse and preacher’s wife, who just moved to Conway in June. “Hopefully we won’t have to.”

Kevin Tovornik’s home at the corner of Busbee Street and Long Avenue was surrounded by swirling floodwater Monday, but it hadn’t yet risen to his floor. He hoped the flash flooding would recede before the river flooding from rains in North Carolina lifts the Waccamaw and its tributaries again. Still, just the sight of water might be enough to end Tovornik’s 23-year stay at his current home.

“According to the wife, this is the last hurrah,” Tovornik said, before wading through waist-deep water to take milk to an elderly neighbor. “She doesn’t want to be 70 years old and living in a place where it does this every two to 10 years.”

Nearby, at the corner of Sherwood Drive and Little Street, William Barker was returning home to pick up his two dogs and bring them to higher ground. He had put a sheet of plywood and sandbags in front of his doorway, but the water came through all the same, higher than it ever has.

“It’s done it before,” a few inches at a time, Barker said, “but nothing like this.”