A year after the Black River flooded parts of Kingstree, some folks scrambled this week to prepare for another deluge by moving furniture and personal belongings from their homes.
So it was encouraging Tuesday when forecasters said the river – swollen by Hurricane Matthew’s rainfall – would begin dropping in coming days.
A small neighborhood and a town park flooded this week, but others remained dry Tuesday, local officials said.
“I’ve seen how it was creeping up in some people’s backyards,’’ said Richard Treme, Kingstree’s town manager. “Hopefully, the river has crested. There is some indication it has.’’
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Jeff Singleton, a spokesman for Williamsburg County’s Emergency Management Office, said a small community called “The Bottom’’ had, so far, not been flooded as feared.
That area suffered during the devastating October 2015 flood that soaked much of eastern South Carolina. Two homes were so badly damaged that they were torn down. Other houses are still standing after homeowners repaired them.
The Black River, which rose perilously close this week to the main bridge leading to town, crested at 16.4 feet Monday afternoon and began to recede, according to the National Weather Service. Water levels are supposed to drop substantially every day through Sunday, the service’s forecast said.
Since Matthew, emergency officials have been keeping an eye on the Black because it runs close to Kingstree, a low-lying town of 3,200 people between Sumter and coastal Georgetown. They’ve also been watching the Little Pee Dee and the Waccamaw — two rivers west of Myrtle Beach — as swollen North Carolina rivers drain into South Carolina. The Waccamaw is expected to approach record levels by the weekend, causing flooding to worsen in the Conway area.
If the trend continues in Kingstree, however, people like Melissa Wilson and Sylvia Bull would rejoice.
Both live in the Bottom and they’re just now recovering from the 2015 storm that increased the size of the Black River, flooded their houses and ruined their belongings. The 2015 storm caused flooding on the Black never seen before. The river crested at 22.6 feet.
“I’m so drained from last year I can’t stomach to go through that again,’’ Wilson said. “It is a big, big struggle.’’
Bull said she had moved furniture and other belongings out of her house this week and was preparing to get the appliances out.
Part of her backyard, which is slightly downhill from Wilson’s home, was covered with water Monday from the Black River. She donned a pair of rubber boots so she would not get her feet wet as she worked around the house.
“It might get me, it might not. I’m hoping not,’’ Bull said.
A grandmother with an easy smile and a quick wit, Bull said this year’s hurricane and the rising river were giving her second thoughts about remaining in her house. Leaving would be an emotional decision since she grew up there, but it may be time to go, Bull said.
“I need to make sure I get on higher ground,’’ Bull said. “You can’t just keep coming back if it is going to keep doing this every year.”