Politics & Government

Matthew death toll rises and flooding still a threat, SC Gov. Haley says

Flooding remains a threat to communities along two Pee Dee rivers as water from Hurricane Matthew’s rainfall courses southeast toward the ocean, state officials said Thursday.

Gov. Nikki Haley also said a fourth death attributed to Hurricane Matthew and its aftermath was reported this week in Dillon. On Monday, a person died while moving a cable outside, she said.

Three deaths have previously been attributed to Matthew, including a Richland County man who drowned after falling out of a wheelchair.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Alvin Taylor, the director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said officials are most concerned about the Waccamaw River, which is still rising, and communities downstream from Nichols on the Little Pee Dee. The Little Pee Dee has crested but the Waccamaw is not expected to crest until late this weekend or early next week.

The state has shifted boat patrols to the Waccamaw River to conduct search and rescue and provide security to evacuated homes along the river.

As the entire water system rises, Taylor said officials are keeping an eye on communities from Conway south to Bucksport, and from Waccamaw to Georgetown.

The flooding has caught some river residents by surprise. Nichols had to be evacuated from the flooding, including 150 residents who fled to the town hall for shelter from rising waters. Other communities along the Pee Dee region of the state also were evacuated due to flooding after rivers swelled by Hurricane Matthew overflowed their banks.

Residents of Beaufort County’s Harbor, Hunting and Fripp islands were allowed back onto Hilton Head Island on Wednesday after transportation officials repaired a bridge to the barrier islands.

Across the state, 263 total roads remained closed after the storm, down from a peak of 481, S.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said, adding the remaining closures are largely on secondary roads in residential areas.

The Department of Transportation continues to monitor bridges in other locations, Hall said.

Statewide, 372 people remain in 11 shelters in the Beaufort and Pee Dee areas, Haley said. Six of those shelters are in schools that remained closed while people are staying in them.

Five days after Hurricane Matthew struck South Carolina, 75,276 customers remain without power, although that number is down from 290,000 on Tuesday. Farmers have seen significant crop losses due to the storm and subsequent flooding.

21 dams around the state have been breached, even as residents returned to coastal islands that were closed for days after the storm.

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