Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday that South Carolina emergency officials are worried about major flooding in three particular areas near the coast as floodwaters travel downstream this weekend.
During a briefing with reporters in Summerville on Thursday afternoon, Haley warned evacuations will likely be needed along the rivers in Georgetown County, along with sections of the Santee River north of Charleston and the Edisto River to the city’s west.
Haley urged residents who live in those floodplains to get ready to evacuate now even before National Guard troops or local responders warn them to leave. “We are erring on the side of caution because of everything our guys told us,” she said. “I hope they’re wrong. But they haven’t been wrong, yet.”
Haley warned the Georgetown area, in particular, could see the worst flooding as the area’s flat terrain means floodwaters could stick around for up to 12 days.
Georgetown County Emergency Management Director Sam Hodge said officials are mostly concerned with the Black River, Pee Dee River, and Mingo Creek areas. “The key thing to remember is this is not a tsunami-type event,” he said in a message to residents. “There’s not a 40-foot wall of water that’s going to come through. This is a slow-rising river. So, if you live in those areas and you feel at all threatened by the flood, we ask that you evacuate.”
Voluntary evacuations are underway in the Oatlands and Dunbar communities. U.S. Highways 701 and 17 will also be closed due to conditions, the governor announced. There are no plans at this time to evacuate the cities of Georgetown or Pawleys Island, Hodge said.
The second area of concern is the Santee River, particularly in the tiny Berkeley County community of Jamestown. The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting its worst level of “major flooding” at the river just north of the hamlet within Francis Marion National Forest.
National Guard Commander Gen. Robert Livingston said the situation along the Santee depends on how much Santee Cooper has to discharge from Lake Marion. He said officials will try to alert the public ahead of any discharges that could turn the normally peaceful river into a fast torrent.
“We’re talking 12 hours, 24 hours, and 72 hours in advance so that we’re not having last-minute panics,” Livingston told reporters at the state Emergency Operations Center in Lexington County.
The state-owned utility announced Thursday it had increased its controlled spill at Lake Marion’s Santee Dam to 82,000 cubic feet of water per second in response to the enormous amounts of water flowing from Columbia and the Midlands.
The third area is along the Edisto River south of Givhans Ferry, particularly around Cottageville, Jacksonboro and Adams Run. The NWS is also forecasting major flooding for the sparsely populated region. Haley said residents should assume that the state Department of Transportation will close the U.S. Highway 17A bridge over the Edisto near Cottageville once the floodwater gets closer.