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In South Carolina, Death Toll Reaches 6, Residents Plucked from Flooded Homes as Florence's Impacts Worsen
Published: September 17, 2018
Tropical Depression Florence continued to dump torrential rain on parts of South Carolina Sunday, leading to additional water rescues and more evacuations in several areas of the state.
Sunday night, two dozen people had to leave an evacuation center in Cheraw, South Carolina, when more than 2 feet of water flooded the building, WCCB reported. The Cheraw Fire chief said the evacuees were being moved to Cheraw High School.
Sunday afternoon, Florence County issued a mandatory evacuation order for people who live near Black Creek, which was expected to reach 14 feet by midnight and crest at 16.5 feet by 1 p.m. Tuesday. Evacuations also occurred Sunday in the town of Bennettsville in an area where about 200 people live, according to WPDE.com.
Crews rescued people from flooded homes in the towns of Marion and Mullins early Sunday, not far from areas where a foot of rain or more fell in a 48-hour span. Marion County administrator Tim Harper said about 100 swift-water rescues had been conducted.
Travel was also impacted on several roads across the state, including along Interstate 95, where a 9-mile stretch of the freeway in Dillon County was closed because of flooding.
Rivers including the Little Pee Dee, the Waccamaw, the Great Pee Dee, the Lumber, and the Black are expected to reach or exceed flood levels this week.
"It’s like a tsunami, except it comes on the river," S.C. Department of Natural Resources spokesman Robert McCullough told the State. “The water is deceptive. It starts rising. It is at your toes, then your ankles, and before you know it, it is at your knees. And it keeps coming. It’s a slow-motion event."
The town of Cheraw, just south of the North Carolina line, sits along the Great Pee Dee River, which is already overflowing its banks after three days of rain. Water is standing in a park, and many streets are flooded.
Shelia Allen was born in 1989 during Hurricane Hugo. She told the State, “In my whole life, we have not seen any kind of flooding like this before, in the streets. Homes, the bridges and dirt roads and creeks have never been that bad before. (We are) just trying to take it a day at a time and put back our lives.’’
A Fight Over Flood Control Measures
Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall has said floodwaters could wash over several bridges in the state. According to the State, those bridges are on S.C. 9 over the Lumber River, S.C. 917 and U.S. 501 over the Little Pee Dee River, and S.C. 9 over the Waccamaw River.
Hall had announced Saturday that crews hoped to have flood control structures in place by Monday to keep two major routes into Myrtle Beach — U.S. 378 at the Lynches River and U.S. 501 at the Waccamaw River — open so evacuees can return home. However, in a special meeting Sunday, the Conway City Council made plans to ask a judge to stop work on the 5-foot barrier on 501, the Post and Courier reported. Council members fear the diverted water could flood Conway.
Hall said during a briefing Sunday that computer models were used to decide how to build the barrier and water would still flow in the Waccamaw, which the National Weather Service forecasts could reach nearly 16 feet on Friday.
“It’s all about planning, preparation and putting things in place to make sure we don’t cut Horry County off from the rest of the state,” Hall said.
Death Toll Rises in South Carolina
Florence has been blamed for six deaths in the state.
A pickup truck hit standing water on Pond Branch Road near Gilbert in Lexington County at 6 a.m. Sunday causing the driver to lose control and hit a tree, the South Carolina Department of Safety said. The driver, 30-year-old Rhonda R. Hartley, died at the scene.
A crash near Weatherford, in Kershaw County, at 7 a.m. on Sunday killed one person. A pickup truck was traveling west on I-20 when it ran off the road and hit an overpass support beam, the South Carolina Department of Safety said. Kershaw County Coroner David A. West said the driver, identified as 42-year-old Jeffery B. Youngren of Elgin, died on the scene.
Amber Dawn Lee, 61, was killed late Friday when the vehicle she was driving struck a tree near the town of Union, South Carolina, Capt. Kelley Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol told the Associated Press.
(MORE: Florence, by the Numbers)
Horry County officials confirmed to the AP that two people died in Loris after running a generator inside their home. Mark Carter King, 63, and Debra Collins Rion, 61, died of carbon monoxide poisoning Saturday afternoon, Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard told the AP.
In Georgetown County, Michael Dalton Prince, 23, died after the vehicle in which he was a passenger flipped into a drainage ditch around 3 a.m. Sunday, the Associated Press reports. The driver and another passenger escaped from the overturned vehicle.
What to Expect in the Days to Come
Much of the state is attempting to get back to normal, even as the threat of flooding remains for many parts of South Carolina.
Gov. Henry McMaster has said state government offices should reopen Monday, and he said schools could reopen whenever district officials wanted.
Students at the University of South Carolina who thought they would be off until Tuesday had to scramble back to Columbia on Sunday when the university president announced classes would resume Monday.
But for many, the worst may still be coming.
In Horry County, the Waccamaw and Little Pee Dee rivers are expected to reach "major flood" water levels in the days ahead. Residents along the rivers spent Sunday moving what they could and hoping for the best for the things they couldn't move.
Doretha Lewis' house, where she has lived for 10 years, sits on the bank of the Waccamaw in Lees Landing. She told the Sun News she was sad to have to move all her belongings yet again. Unlike many neighborhing houses, Lewis' is not built on stilts. It has two downstairs bedrooms.
“We have to empty the bottom, then we go to my son’s and live,” she told the newspaper. “To come back in and live, it takes a while because you have to clean up everything.”
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