The small town of Nichols in Marion County is almost completely underwater for a second time in just over two years.
Floodwaters caused by Hurricane Florence have covered the low-lying town still recovering from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Municipal leaders are in shock, worried for their future existence as an organized government in the town roughly 30 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach.
“People were just starting to get back in their homes,” Mayor Lawson Battle said, as he traveled back to a room in Myrtle Beach. “Half of the businesses of the ones that were coming back were back and spent all their money, hard work and time to get restarted. And now we’re back to starting over again.”
Battle said the town had not been hit by a major flood for decades until it was caught off-guard by Matthew. More than 160 people had to be evacuated in the October 2016 floods, including many who fled to the town hall’s third floor as waters rose dangerously high. However, this time state officials and residents were prepared and National Guard crews said they are not aware of any residents who remained in town once waters swept through the town’s tree-lined streets again on Thursday.
“Everybody took the warning a lot better this time, but we had more time to prepare,” Battle said. “But we’ve learned a lot since Matthew, the county, the town and the state were a lot more prepared.”
Water levels are also higher than in 2016, with the Lumber River still yet to crest.
The mayor said the timing could not have been worse. Besides residents just starting to get their lives back in order, Nichols had just begun using $1.5 million in grant funds to study potential flooding solutions when those plans were wrecked by Florence last week. He said Nichols badly needs prayers and help from the rest of South Carolina if it is to recover a second time.
“We’re just going to need a lot of help or we’re going to end up a community and not a town,” he said, noting it could be impossible to develop a tax base to fund municipal services.