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Here’s what convinced Conway City Council to get on board with county, state on 501

Boats are anchored in the rising waters of the Waccamaw River in Conway, SC near Us 501.
Boats are anchored in the rising waters of the Waccamaw River in Conway, SC near Us 501. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

The City of Conway on Monday night rescinded an attempt to seek an injunction against the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Horry County and other state agencies regarding the man-made barriers being put in place to keep U.S. 501 Bypass open while extreme flooding affects the city, according to a Facebook post from city council member William Goldfinch IV.

Conway officials had concerns when learning of the plans to keep 501 open, fearing that the erection of the barriers would put nearly 1,000 more area homes in jeopardy. However, by Monday evening all members of city council had been privy to a presentation from engineers that alleviated their fears.

“We were unanimous in this decision once we learned that it will have no impact on flooding additional homes in the Conway area,” Goldfinch said in his post.

Attempts to reach Conway Public Information Officer Taylor Newell on Monday night for further information were unsuccessful.

The City of Conway had initially planned to vote on whether or not to pursue an injunction Monday afternoon, but some councilmembers voiced concern over the fact that not all of them had a chance to be present during a presentation by engineers that morning. As the vote appeared to be leaning in favor of keeping the plans to seek an injunction, officials decided to set up Monday evening’s meeting with engineers in hopes of orchestrating what would be a more educated vote.

The presentation ultimately persuaded councilmembers to rescind the injunction plan after gaining more information.

“I want to thank leaders of Horry County and the State of SC and all of the departments that support them,” Goldfinch said in his Facebook post. “This has proven to be a successful partnership.”

Conway Mayor Barbara Bellamy was one of the initial members to get on board with rescinding the injunction based on the knowledge she gained earlier in the day.

“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.

During the afternoon meeting officials who’d seen the first presentation relayed information to the others.

Conway Fire Chief Le Hendrick said then that 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.

Goldfinch on Monday night cautioned resident to not be fooled by water receding, cautioning that more flooding is on the way.

“We are currently facing the largest natural disaster Conway has ever dealt with,” his Facebook post read.

Staff writers Megan Tomasic and Hannah Strong contributed to this report.

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