After dumping more than 2 feet of rain in parts of eastern North Carolina, hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Florence is likely to continue affecting South Carolina for days after it passes.
Rising river levels pose a threat to thousands of South Carolinians as North Carolina’s rainwater flows south into the Palmetto State.
Forecasters and state officials have their eyes on the Lumber, Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, Catawba and Waccamaw rivers as likely to flood.
The town of Cheraw, where the Pee Dee River flows just below the Carolinas border, is expected to see that river reach flood stage — about 40 feet — by Sunday evening, the National Weather Service predicts. The river in Cheraw could crest at up to five times its normal level of 9 feet by Tuesday and remain there, at more than 47 feet, through at least Thursday.
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That would be the second-highest river crest on record in Cheraw, National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Rohrbach said. That river level likely would cause “extensive” flooding of farmland and of secondary roads downstream of Cheraw, Rohrbach said.
Forecasters also warn of flooding around Lake Wateree, which is fed by the swollen Catawba River.
By early next week, water levels at the lake are expected to rise to 104 feet, which is near major flood stage, Rohrbach said. Basements or areas beneath raised homes surrounding the lake could see water damage, he said.
Flooding also is expected along the Waccamaw River in Conway and the Little Pee Dee River in Galivants Ferry starting Saturday, The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News reported.
The S.C. Department of Transportation expects four bridges to be overtopped by flood waters in the coming days: S.C. 917 and U.S. 501 over the Little Pee Dee, and S.C. 9 over both the Lumber and Waccamaw rivers.
Highway officials are working to get emergency flood-control structures in place on U.S. 378 over the Lynches River and the 501 Bypass near Conway. These structures will be necessary to keep roadways into Myrtle Beach clear of water. Structures should be in place by Monday night.
The S.C. National Guard and the Coast Guard are patrolling the Pee Dee with both helicopters and boats to search for people in need of water rescues, said state Adjutant Gen. Robert Livingston. No rescues had been called in as of Saturday.
The National Guard is working with FEMA to prepare its flood response. River flooding is expected Monday into Tuesday in the Pee Dee area. When the flooding will recede will depend on the total rainfall from Florence, which is expected to be greater than Hurricane Matthew, Livingston said.
Some areas that earlier were thought to be in danger of flooding are faring better than expected.
A mandatory evacuation that had been ordered in the Black Creek-Quinby and Lynches River-Effingham areas of Florence County has been “lifted for now due to the favorable changes in the forecast following the former Hurricane Florence,” the Florence County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Saturday afternoon.
Evacuations could be reimposed, however, if conditions change, officials said.