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‘The recovery just started’: Horry officials caution people who return to flood areas

As floods slowly recede in Horry County, officials urged caution for locals as they return home and stressed it’s only the start of the recovery phase.

“Now, we have to take as much time for it to go down as it has taken for it to come up,” Emergency Management Director Randy Webster said of the floods.

Hurricane Florence did not have the anticipated winds, but did bring rain and water to Horry County. Hundreds of roads closed as locals were forced to flee homes because of record-setting floods.

The Waccamaw River near Conway reached its crest Wednesday and is starting to recede, though it will remain above Hurricane Matthew levels until next week. Some of the areas north of Conway are receding more quickly, allowing residents to return.

“We did not have a clear understanding of how bad it would be til now,” Webster said. “So we know it will not get any worse in terms of flooding. But, the beginning of the recovery just started.”

Floodwaters are contaminated and people should not get in the water to return home, Webster said. That water also sat in people’s homes for days.

Animals could have taken refuge in a home from the floodwater so people need to careful when they get to the residences and should not go alone, Webster said.

People needing financial assistance because of flood damage to their home can contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency at DisasterAssistance.gov, or call 800-621-3362.

Webster and other city leaders spoke during a news briefing at Horry County’s Emergency Operation Center on Thursday. The mood at the center is noticeably more relaxed than the lead up to the storm or the days following. The director noted there was frustration, but it was with the unknown extent of floods and not with the emergency operation.

Horry County Police Chief Joe Hill said officers saw a “lot of resiliency” in neighborhoods as residents helped each other during the floods.

As homeowners return, Hill said they need to keep on eye on strangers in their neighborhood and contact police for suspicious behavior. Locals can contact Horry County police at 843-915-5150.

Hill also said people should be suspicious of scams, such as someone claiming to be a contractor offering to do repair work in exchange for an up-front payment. Residents can call the person’s references, and if there are any concerns, they should inform the police.

Horry County Fire and Rescue Chief Joseph Tanner said 25 boat crews are out watching and working in flooded areas. The agency did 130 vehicle rescues and another 130 home evacuations during the storm.

Some roads, such as S.C. Highway 22, are starting to reopen. The decision to open roads depends on which agency — the county or the South Carolina Department of Transportation — maintains the street, Webster said. If the barriers are removed, it is safe for someone to drive in that area.

In Georgetown, flooding predictions continue to fall. Residents who evacuated are asked to consult the Department of Natural Resources flood map to see whether its safe to return home. Some areas will still see flooding greater than during Hurricane Matthew. Anyone with questions can contact the Georgetown disaster center at 843-545-3273.

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