Latest Coastal Flood Warnings: Ominous Projections

Waters still rising as Florence flooding flows downstream …

Broad swaths of the South Carolina coast remain vulnerable to potentially catastrophic flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, according to the latest projections from Palmetto State emergency responders.

As of this writing, the flooded Waccamaw River – part of the waterlogged Yadkin-Pee Dee basin – has yet to crest at several key locations.  According to officials with the S.C. Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), the river “will remain at major flood stage and have a second crest as the Great Pee Dee prevents drainage based on the volume of water moving to Winyah Bay.”

The Great Pee Dee is not projected to crest near Bucksport, S.C. until Wednesday of this week.  Meanwhile the Waccamaw River is not projected to crest in several locations – including its intersection with U.S. Highway 17 – until late Thursday.

That means flood waters will be rising nearly two weeks after Florence first made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on September 14.

How high will they go?  In Bucksport, flooding is expected to be reach anywhere from six to ten feet higher than it did during Hurricane Matthew two years ago.  Same goes for Socastee, S.C., where the final “long cut” of the Intracoastal Waterway – completed in 1936 – flows into the Waccamaw River.

Historic Georgetown, S.C. – the third-oldest city in the Palmetto State – is also in line for potentially catastrophic flooding given its location just west of Winyah Bay.

Here is a look at the latest flood projections courtesy of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) …

(Click to view)

(Via: SCDNR)

Upstream, the Little Pee Dee and Lumber Rivers have crested, but are expected to remain at various flood stages for the next few days.  In fact the Lumber, which joins the Little Pee Dee at the border of Marion and Horry Counties in South Carolina, is projected to remain at major flood stage for the next six days.

The problem?  All of this water is trying to get to the same place: Winyah Bay.

As we noted in our coverage over the weekend, the nation’s fourth-largest estuary is the “end of the line” for the Yadkin-Pee Dee basin, which runs for 450 miles from its headwaters in Blowing Rock, N.C. all the way to the port of Georgetown, S.C.  Within that distance are 5,862 miles of streams and rivers that collect rainfall from an area totaling 7,221 square miles.

That’s exactly where Florence dumped most of her deluge.  In fact according to the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Raleigh, N.C., the storm dumped a whopping eight trillion gallons of water on the Tar Heel State.

Some estimates put the amount of rainfall North Carolina received from the storm closer to nine trillion gallons.  Meanwhile, another 2.5 to 3 trillion gallons of rainfall fell in the Palmetto State – saturating the ground and exacerbating flooding concerns.

Nine South Carolinians have already died as a result of rising waters, and emergency managers are worried more deaths could be imminent as all of this wetness works its way to the sea.

Property damage is also a concern.  According to SCEMD projections, Florence will completely destroy 200 homes and do major damage to another 4,000.  An additional 24,000 homes will sustain some damage.  By comparison, Matthew destroyed 162 homes and did major damage to another 574 homes.  An additional 1,200 homes sustained some damage when that system rolled through.

There are also growing concerns about water contamination.  According to the Winyah Rivers Foundation, “high bacteria and fecal levels” have been confirmed in the Great Pee Dee, Lumber, Lynches, Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers during the flooding.

“Stay out of the flood waters in these rivers,” the group warned.

Stay tuned … as we noted over the weekend, we are continuing to follow this dangerous, developing situation.




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