Conway council still waiting for information from state on how to keep U.S. 501 open

Sandbags are on their way to Conway, South Carolina

SC Department of Transportation and National Guard load sandbags for Conway as floodwaters rise.
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SC Department of Transportation and National Guard load sandbags for Conway as floodwaters rise.

Conway City Council is withholding direct action to file an injunction against the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Horry County and other state officials to fight using man-made barriers on U.S. 501.

During a special county meeting, several council members and Conway Mayor Barbara Bellamy discussed the possibility of placing sandbags and pumps along part of the road to prevent it for flooding — a decision that could endanger about 944 homes.

If the road floods, it could potentially cut the city off from receiving supplies as the Waccamaw River continues to rise after Hurricane Florence.

“As it turns out, I’m more convinced that there’s a great benefit for everybody involved when it comes to human life,” Conway Mayor Barbara Bellamy said. “Our ability to get goods and services ... depends on there being an open highway somewhere.”

Officials originally wanted to pass the injunction because they say they were not provided information to show the barriers won’t lead to additional flooding.

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Several council members still felt they did not have enough information to make a decision Monday afternoon. On Monday morning, Bellamy and other city officials toured the work to learn how the sandbags would keep water from the road.

According to Conway Fire Chief Le Hendrick, the sandbags will allow the water to rise evenly. SCDOT is placing bags high enough, so water will reach to about the halfway mark.

Any water that does run through the bags will be sucked up with pumps.

Hendrick said that part of U.S. 501 will be down to one lane with “very slow-moving traffic.”

Officials are preparing for flood waters 3 feet higher than they rose during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The water will rise to about 21 feet before the river crests.

“Matthew should have been a once-in-a-lifetime flood,” Conway City Administrator Adam Emrick said on Sunday. City officials have been telling people if they were flooded in Matthew, this will be worse.

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Hendrick said now that flood maps have been completed, the water is rising slower than was anticipated.

Officials are waiting for an expert from SCDOT to come in and explain the process later today. Once they meet, council will make a decision on the injunction.

The cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach and Horry County are assisting Conway as waters rise. Myrtle Beach is offering hotel rooms and sending fire and police officials to Conway. The city is also providing extra sandbags to help control flooding.

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