Breanna Mack and Johnathan Cooper left their home near Black Creek in Florence on Friday, thinking a motel room would be a safe bet in case the waters rose during Hurricane Matthew.
As it turned out, their motel room flooded during overnight downpours, destroying all of their essentials, including food and clothes for their 4-month-old daughter.
“All she had on was a diaper and a little blanket wrapped around her,” Mack said. “I watched the news the night before, and it didn’t look like it was going to be that bad, but when I woke up, water was up to the bed. It flooded some last year, but it wasn’t anything like this.”
Cooper said thousands of dollars’ worth of property was damaged during the flood, and that’s not factoring in what’s been lost at their house.
“Everything we had with us was damaged,” he said. “We haven’t been back yet, so I don’t know what it looks like there. Hopefully it’s not bad, but I don’t really know.”
Mack and her family have been at the evacuation center, set up in Wilson High School, since they were flooded out. Their experience has not been pleasant.
“We haven’t been able to take showers,” she said. “We just got the cots to sleep on yesterday (Sunday), and all we’ve had to eat are the military rations. I was just able to get more formula today. I think everybody’s just frustrated and not really treating us right.”
Tonya McDonald, a Florence resident who came to the shelter after flash flooding compromised her home, said she’s able to go home now but chose to stay to help those in dire need.
“There are older people here who’ve had to sleep on the floor and not enough blankets,” she said. “People need food. They’re worried, and they need some reassurance that they’re going to be OK. It didn’t feel right to leave when I can stay and help.
Rain associated with Hurricane Matthew pushed two Florence County streams to near-record levels and breached two dams, but those streams are now starting to recede.
Black Creek at Quinby crested at 16.46 feet – a level it reached quickly. At 2 a.m. Saturday, Black Creek was flowing at about four feet, and by 6 p.m. Saturday, it had crested close to last year’s record-setting crest of 16.8 feet, according to the National Weather Service’s hydrological information website.
By Monday, Black Creek had receded to 15.5 feet, still moderate flood stage, and it was forecast to remain in moderate flood stage throughout Monday before falling into minor flood stage throughout the week, according to the website.
By Saturday, Black Creek is forecast to still be running above 10 feet.
At Black Creek’s crest, floodwaters inundated homes on Creekside Drive, East Black Creek Road and Crooked Creek Drive and isolated all others, according to the website. Once the creek falls below 10 feet, it will return to its banks.
The Lynches River at the gauge in Effingham also rose precipitously fast Saturday, from a level of less than four feet to more than 16 feet by midnight, and it continued to rise through Sunday and most of Monday on its way to a predicted crest of 18 feet Monday afternoon – right at major flood stage but well shy of last year’s 19.73 feet crest.
Lynches River is forecast to remain above flood stage through Wednesday as it falls to a level just over 11 feet by Saturday, according to the website.
Both the Lynches River and Black Creek drain basins mostly west of Florence – Black Creek starting in Darlington County and Lynches originating in North Carolina southeast of Charlotte. Those were areas that weren’t as heavily hit by Matthew’s rains as points north and east of Florence.
The Lumber River at Nichols forced evacuations by land and air as water from a record-breaking flood at Lumberton drained south toward the Little Pee Dee river on its way to Winyah Bay.
The Lumber River in Lumberton crested Sunday at 24.39 feet, just about four feet over the previous record of 20.5 feet, and it is expected to remain above 24 feet through Saturday.
Richard Neuherz, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, N.C., said that a precise prediction of the situation at Nichols is difficult to predict because of the lack of a river gage but that it appeared the river would rise for at least another foot and crest in 48 hours before it started to drain.
U.S. 76 through that area is closed as a result of the flooding.
Another Pee Dee river that crested in the major flood range is the Black River at Kingstree, which hit its peak Monday at 16.4 feet, according to the website.
At that level, the water affected homes in Kingstree as well as S.C. 41 at Andrews and low-lying areas along the river upstream from the U.S. 52 bridge.
Monday’s crest was well below the record for the river at 22.6 feet.
The two Florence County dams that were breached – The Country Club of South Carolina and Lake Oakdale – resulted in the lake at the Country Club of South Carolina being drained and the Lake Oakdale situation remaining from Sunday, said Andrew Golden, a Florence County Emergency Management Division spokesman.