“The worst thing we’ve ever seen” — rivers are cresting with floodwaters

Severe Flood Warning
Traffic was stopped briefly on Highway 378 Wednesday, not because of the countless downed trees from Hurricane Matthew or the floodwaters swamping parts of the Pee Dee, but to let volunteers back in trailers to the submerged entrance of Pastor Jamie Montgomery’s desperate church.
“We were told it was going to rise about four more feet so it’s going to wipe us out totally,” an exasperated Montgomery said about the Little Pee Dee River floodwaters surrounding Piney Grove Baptist Church.
He drove the last trailer full of church pews, worth about $60,000 in all, and other items to waiting helpers parked beside the highway.
“This right here is just the worst thing we’ve ever seen,” Montgomery said looking at the waters he expected to enter the church by nightfall. “But we’ve had about 50 to 60 people stop and help so we’ve just been blessed.”
As South Carolina braces for a rush of Matthew’s rainfall-turned-to-river swell, thousands of volunteers and responders are moving to help get those in danger to safety.
Michele Larrimore, who lives behind Piney Grove Baptist, was directing traffic and pickup trucks hauling off items. She is still without power at home and said recovery will be difficult.
“I have no flood insurance and a majority of people around here don’t have flood insurance,” Larrimore said. “We’ve never seen a flood like this.”
The two were like the many throughout the Pee Dee and Grand Strand regions now fighting to protect property from rising water overrunning the banks of the Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers. Floodwaters from the Lumber River, 30 miles north of Britton’s Neck where Montgomery’s church is located, swamped the town of Nichols on Monday. The stories and warnings have residents around the rising Waccamaw on edge.
The river, which runs from a flooded North Carolina into Horry County and through downtown Conway on its way to the coast, is expected to rise another 2 feet and crest at near 17 feet by early next week.
“It’s going to keep coming,” resident Brian Davenport said near the flooded Riverwalk in Conway. “The water level is worse than last year. We’ve had such an inflow from upstream and all that’s coming here.”
Horry County Emergency Management has 24 security checkpoints near impacted roads and state Department of Transportation officials are positioned to close more. County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said the Category 1 storm that came ashore Saturday has done more than $17.6 million worth of damage to homes, but that number will increase once the flooding subsides.
“We’re focusing resources in those (flood-prone) pockets that may have additional needs,” Bourcier said. “It’s going to get bad again before it gets better.”
Bourcier thinks it will be more than a week before people know if financial assistance will come from the federal government, like it did last year after the historic flooding.
Not all residents here escaped the creeping floodwaters, including pets that some homeowners left behind.
Among the 11 animals rescued Tuesday, Chris Schindler found a black Labrador who didn’t like swimming and was sitting atop his flooded dog house. The pet waited for Schindler and others with the Humane Society rescue team.
“One of the properties we went to was under 15 feet of water,” Schindler said. “Those animals we were shocked even could’ve survived that, because there was only a few inches left, and cats and dogs were floating on debris. It’s scary to them. The water comes in fast, their people left and then strangers come in.”
The team was trying to navigate the Waccamaw to reach other animals Wednesday. They expect more calls going forward. Once rescued, owners can reunite with their pets at the Horry County Animal Care Center in Conway.
For Montgomery it’s a wait and pray time that the river doesn’t continue to rise.
“Right now we good, but the majority of my church members are under water and I got most of their stuff at my house,” Montgomery said. “The sheriff told me Tuesday I need to be on standby because all these swamps push by the canal by my house and there is possibility if it raises, it will flood me.”
Courtesy of postandcourier.com

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