Authorities have ended evacuation orders for the entire South Carolina coast, as attention now shifts to potential flooding concerns along the Pee Dee River basin.
Tropical Depression Florence picked up speed as of Sunday afternoon after it spent Saturday crawling across the Pee Dee region. It continued to dump rain along the North Carolina border, with a high of 16 inches reported near Chesterfield around 2 p.m. Sunday with more expected.
Evacuations have begun along the Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers due to fears they could rise to flood level as rainwater from North Carolina gradually makes its way south. Flooding has been reported in Chesterfield, Marion and Marlboro counties. More than 400 people have been evacuated due to flash flooding concerns.
“They have not crested, they have not even begun yet,” Gov. Henry McMaster said. “But they will. And the question is: how high will the water be? And we do not know.”
Five deaths have now been blamed on the storm in South Carolina. The state Highway Patrol said the latest death occurred Sunday morning when a pickup lost control along Interstate 20 and struck a bridge support beam near mile marker 106 southeast of Camden. The victim was identified as 42-year-old Jeffery Youngren of Elgin.
Earlier Sunday, a passenger died in Georgetown County after the pickup in which he was a passenger overturned around 2:30 a.m. Highway Patrol troopers said the driver lost control after entering water which covered a roadway near Plantersville. “A pickup truck… struck standing water in the roadway, lost control and overturned,” Cpl. Sonny Collins said. The Georgetown County coroner identified the victim as Michael Prince.
A Union woman died Friday after her car hit a downed tree. Officials also say two people also died from carbon monoxide poisoning on Saturday after running a gas generator inside their Loris home.
Meanwhile, an entire segment of Interstate 95 has closed southwest of Dillon as floodwaters covered part of the highway. South Carolina Department of Transportation crews have closed down both lanes between exits 181 (SC Highway 38) and 190 (SC Highway 34). Several lanes were also closed along parts of U.S. Highway 501 heading westbound, but authorities say parts of the road remain open.
However, there is concern that floodwaters arriving late Monday could begin to overtop nearly a half-dozen bridges heading into Horry County, potentially cutting off the Myrtle Beach region from points west. South Carolina Department of Transportation crews are erecting a temporary dam using concrete barriers and plastic lining to protect U.S. Highway 378 along the Lynches River near Lake City and Highway 501 Bypass along Lake Busbee in Conway.
But Conway city council has sued to stop the dam from going up near their city. City Administrator Adam Emrick worried the dam could spare the highway — but potentially risking hundreds of homes located behind it.
“The concern of staff is if the manmade barriers cause flooding in the city of Conway that would not be caused but for those barriers,” he told council members during an emergency meeting Sunday, according to video posted by WBTW-TV. “That’s an unacceptable solution.”
He said county models assumed the Waccamaw River could crest at 22 feet later this week — four feet higher than similar flooding after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. He said such flooding held back by a higher 501 Bypass barrier could put more than 940 homes at risk in Conway. The county voted to seek an injunction from a judge which would forbid the barriers.
Emrick said he has asked the Department of Transportation for models which show such a situation could not occur if the river reached that level along the barriers. He said the agency could not address those worries. The National Weather Service is only predicting floodwaters to crest at 16 feet, however.