The biggest worry now for a storm-weary state is the ever-swelling Waccamaw River that flows along South Carolina’s No. 1 tourist region – the Grand Strand.
The river won’t crest in the heavily populated area until next week at the earliest, so there’s time to get out of the way. But how high will it go?
Another point of tension is the waterlogged dams that are under 17 emergency orders from the state environmental agency, especially two in Florence and Horry counties. About two dozen dams have breached. Dam inspectors have even used two privately owned drones to survey dams that are in out-of-the-way places.
The drones have been used to help evaluate Hermitage Dam in Kershaw County and Pepsi Cola Dam in Florence County. Two at-risk dams – one at U.S. 501 near Galivants Ferry, the other the Oakdale dam in Florence County – are stabilizing or have been made stable with sandbags and riprap as of Thursday afternoon, an environmental agency official said.
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Meanwhile, a fourth death has been blamed on Hurricane Matthew, this one in Dillon County, Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday. The person killed on Monday was in water, moving a cable wire; no further details were available.
But increasingly, all eyes are on the Waccamaw, which runs near Myrtle Beach, Conway and south to the town of Georgetown. “That’s the one we’re all worried about,” Haley said of the waterway. “The hard part is the wait.”
The river is expected to crest Monday or Tuesday. But the deepest water could take as much as 10 more days to arrive from soggy North Carolina rivers, said Alvin Taylor, head of the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
Taylor, who spoke during Haley’s afternoon news briefing, said officials are particularly watching the Waccamaw at the rural Bucksport area. The river “system is rising, and so we’re looking at all those communities from Conway to Georgetown,” he said.
Horry County officials sent a red evacuation alert Thursday for people in Bucksport, largely a farming community that has a marina. “We encourage people to leave now,” the message stated.
More broadly, Taylor told people in flooded parts of the Pee Dee that they still had time to leave.
Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility, on Thursday asked its coastal customers to turn on their porch lights to make it easier for night repair crews to determine which homes do and don’t have electricity.
Lowcountry coastal communities, meanwhile, are slowly getting back on their feet as the dregs of the weekend storm that dumped up to 15 inches of rain continue to dog the state. Still, Beaufort County’s revenue-generating state park on Hunting Island might stay closed into next spring, Haley said.
That park was expected to have 1 million visitors through next June and to generate $3.3 million for the state, according to figures from the Parks, Recreation and Tourism agency.
A snapshot of the hurricane’s toll
In other updates from Thursday’s storm briefing, emergency response officials said:
▪ 75,276 customers remain without power, most of them in Beaufort, Florence, Horry and Williamsburg counties. Some 30,000 of those people are served by electric cooperatives.
▪ 78,000 people are under boil-water advisories
▪ 25 dams around the state have been breached
▪ 263 total roads remained closed
▪ 372 people remain in 11 shelters in the Beaufort and the Pee Dee areas
▪ Farmers have seen significant crop losses
▪ The state is seeking federal flood assistance from Washington for 12 additional counties. Thirteen already have been approved for aid.
▪ A 60-day grace period has been approved for people who are late or nearly late on paying their property insurance premiums.
▪ Edisto Beach State Park also has been closed by the storm, but its cabin area and Live Oak campground are to open before Thanksgiving, a tourism official said. The beachfront campground there likely will be closed the rest of this year. Edisto is projected to have 353,000 visitors by next June and to produce $1.7 million in income.
One of the places where evacuees from the hard-hit town of Nichols in Marion County received help Thursday was in the town of Mullins.
The Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, based in Nashville, Tenn., brought an 18-wheeler packed with clothes, water, cleaning items and food. Nichols residents who were at Palmetto Middle School were ferried by school buses to get their supplies.
“All of this is to serve the needs of those in need and to bring glory to God,” Eboni Johnson, coordinator of the Mullins effort, told WBTW-13 of Myrtle Beach. “Many people have been praying, and I am hoping and praying that this is an answer to their prayers.”
Haley said she will visit the Nichols area Friday to check on its progress.
Lowcountry regaining its balance
The hurricane largely spared Beaufort County from widespread devastation.
Electricity, water and sewer service slowly returned to northern Beaufort County Thursday. Evacuees were readmitted to Fripp Island, the last area in the county where access had been restricted.
Hilton Head Public Service District and South Island Public Service District customers were no longer required to boil water as of Thursday afternoon. Both districts said tests have shown that water quality is good.
Water pressure in the Hilton Head Public Service District remained at 50 percent of normal pressure, said Pete Nardi, the district’s general manager. He called on customers to limit their water usage until full pressure is restored.
Islanders and possibly residents of Port Royal could encounter sewage overflows if they live near manholes or broken lines. “There’s scores of (line breaks),” Nardi said. “There’s hundreds.”
To the north, in the Myrtle Beach-area, a woman told police that a man sexually assaulted her during the hurricane and said he could have thrown her from a balcony and gotten away with it. A 28-year-old North Myrtle Beach man has been charged.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday said that state’s death toll is now 22. Nationally, Matthew has claimed 38 lives. Virginia reported its second storm-related death Thursday.
One victim in North Carolina drowned when the car he or she was in went around a barricade and encountered a washed-out road. A second victim died when he walked into a hole from an uprooted tree and couldn’t get out.
The Tar Heel state is still seeing flooding days after Matthew dumped more than a foot of rain. McCrory said the historic town of Princeville was underwater after a nearby river spilled over.
State writer Jamie Self along with the (Hilton Head) Island Packet, the Beaufort Gazette, the (Myrtle Beach) Sun News, media in the Pee Dee and the Associated Press contributed.
Need assistance or want to help?
Whether storm victims are looking for help or South Carolinians want to pitch in, here’s where you can get what you’re looking for.
Cleaning up mud or debris? Call the crisis cleanup hotline 1-800-451-1954
Need food, clothing or shelter? Dial 2-1-1
Want to give? Donate to One SC Fund at www.onescfund.org. The fund was set up to help flood victims but has been expanded to help Matthew victims.
Dams currently impacting roads in South Carolina
- D-3616, Graham Pond, Horry County
- D-3562, Pepsi Cola Dam, Florence County
- D-3571, Sales International Dam (Country Club of SC), Florence County
- D-3550, Bethea Baptist Home Dam, Darlington County
- D-0511, Leggette Millpond Dam, Marion County
- D-3612, Stroud Pond Dam, Marion County
- D-3453, Covington Millpond Dam, Marlboro County
- D-3580, Bowling Pond Dam, Florence County
- Andrew Mills Road, Darlington County
- Hampton Pointe Drive, Florence County
SOURCE: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control