Georgetown County officials are advising more than 8,000 households to evacuate their homes as floodwaters creep downstream and threaten to inundate neighborhoods that rarely see flooding.
The county sent pre-recorded phone messages to residents in areas that are expected to experience floods in the coming days, county spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said Sunday.
It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm on Sept. 14. But it’s taking this long for floodwaters to make their way from North Carolina into Horry County and finally to Georgetown County, a mostly rural area of roughly 61,000 residents.
Some people spent the weekend moving their belongings into storage units or upper levels of homes — preparations that have become almost routine for Horry residents who live along the Waccamaw and Little Pee Dee rivers.
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“You see it over in Conway and say, ‘Oh my God, I’m so happy I don’t live in an area like that,’” said Robert Steuer, who expects to see floodwaters rise into his Pawleys Island home for the first time this week. “And here it is — I live in an area like that.”
It’s unclear how much flooding Georgetown County could see, or when. The Waccamaw River is expected to crest in the Bucksport area in Horry County on Wednesday at about 28 feet. That’s roughly 4 feet higher than after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
“The exact impacts along the Waccamaw, especially below Bucksport to the Georgetown area are unknown,” the National Weather Service said in a report Sunday morning. “As a result, continue to listen to the advice of local emergency officials.”
Tupelo Humes, a member of the Georgetown City Council, said he didn’t want to speculate about how high the water could rise.
“We know that it’s going to be a significant impact,” Humes said, adding that people who live in areas that don’t typically flood should be prepared.
Rising waters could cause the Winyah Bay to spill into historic Georgetown, where restaurants and shops line Front Street.
Rex and Sabrina Query were loading the contents of their store, Whimsy Roost Home Goods and Gifts, into a U-Haul truck Sunday afternoon. The shop closed for days because of Hurricane Florence, and now it’s closed again as waters continue to rise.
“The stress of all this and the anxiety of trying to figure out what decision to make — I haven’t been sleeping,” Sabrina Query said.
On Sunday, Joy and Lee Talbot were hanging protective sheets outside the South Carolina Maritime Museum, where Lee Talbot serves on the board.
“We’re doing what we can do,” Joy Talbot said. “I’m not sure it’s going to be enough.”
A couple blocks away on Front Street, the Graham’s Landing restaurant opened about four weeks ago. Ella Plummer, whose husband and son own the eatery, said some high school students would come later to hang tarps and place sandbags along the entrances.
“You can’t worry but so much, I figure,” Plummer said.
Steuer and his girlfriend, Ienke Kampen, had already booked a room at a local hotel, where they will stay if their neighborhood floods. But they worry their neighbors near Beaver Pond aren’t prepared for what’s coming.
“People are gonna get stuck in their houses,” Kampen said.
Steuer said the area didn’t flood after Matthew, and neighbors have told him it didn’t flood during Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
“The good news is we have flood insurance,” he said.
Robert and Deborah Gilbert have lived in their Pawleys Island home for two years. Hurricane Matthew’s waters didn’t reach their house. But they said they would set up sandbags Monday.
“We’re a little anxious,” Deborah Gilbert said. “It’s our first flood.”