Politics & Government

Ordeal not over, flooding from Hurricane Matthew hits Pee Dee region

Flooding remains a concern for state officials reacting to the ongoing effects of Hurricane Matthew.

S.C. officials said they were focusing on the Little Pee Dee River basin, which runs through the Pee Dee region near the town of Nichols flooded early Monday. Alvin Taylor, the director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said officers are going door-to-door by boat to check on residents, who he said “still have time” to evacuate elsewhere.

Taylor also called on “sight-seers” to stay away from the flooded area, saying wake from passing boats can compound damage to the houses that have already flooded. He said any unauthorized craft found in flooded areas would be asked to leave.

DNR agents have completed 205 water rescues since Hurricane Matthew pounded the state on Saturday, including 30 pets – “and five of them were goats,” said Gov. Nikki Haley.

Many roads and bridges remained closed at the beginning of the week, causing rising frustration among residents who are still waiting to get home.

In all, 434 roads and bridges remain closed across South Carolina due to flooding or trees across road. Three bridges are believed to be damaged, but inspectors will have to wait for the water to recede for them to be checked.

S.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said roads in the state still has flooding in parts of Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Marion and Williamsburg counties, and isolated flooding at the lower part of the state.

Expecting more flooding as water moves into the state from North Carolina, transportation officials are monitoring I-95 at the Great Pee Dee River, S.C. 9 in the Longs area, S.C. 22 and U.S. 501 at Galivants Ferry.

Fripp, Hunting and Harbor islands remain closed after the storm, and local officials hope to allow Hilton Head Island residents to return later on Tuesday. In the meantime, shelters at Beaufort and Bluffton high schools doubled overnight Monday, possibly from returning evacuees unable to get back on the island.

Asked when Harbor River Bridge would be repaired – the one access point to Harbor, Hunting and Fripp islands – S.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said crews are working to repair the bridge, but did not say when the work would be completed.

290,000 also remained without power on Tuesday, although 570,000 have had their power restored since Saturday, Haley said. The counties with the most outages are Horry, Beaufort and Florence.

On Monday, state officials warned of the dangers posed by rising river waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, after Haley had viewed the flooded town of Nichols in Marion County in a fly-over. 150 people had to be evacuated from the third floor of the town hall after flash flooding early Monday morning.

Taylor, the DNR director, said boat crews are going door-to-door, checking on residents and encouraging them to evacuate ahead of rising crests along the Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers.

Haley said she understood residents’ frustrations, but urged them to remain patient.

“A storm will never be convenient,” Haley said, “but lives can never be lost.”