YAUHANNAH, S.C.— The soggy remnants of Florence keep causing chaos in coastal South Carolina long after the hurricane swirled ashore, with rivers still flowing far beyond their banks and a new storm gathering more rain just offshore.
Authorities urged up to 8,000 people leave their homes in Georgetown County, on the South Carolina coast, as the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers overflowed with a record 10 feet of flooding reaching a crest in their communities Tuesday.
Some places along Georgetown’s waterfront were predicted to flood for the first time since record keeping began before the American Revolution.
The National Hurricane Center said a broad area of low pressure about 300 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, is producing showers and thunderstorms on its north side. Forecasters said it could become a tropical depression Tuesday as it approaches the coast, but will dump rain regardless on coastal areas of North and South Carolina.
Pastor Willie Lowrimore and some of his congregants initially stacked sandbags around their South Carolina church as the hurricane approached. Then they moved the pews to higher ground. Finally, the rank black water seeped around and over the sandbags on Monday, flooding the sanctuary.
“I’m going to go one day at a time,” Lowrimore said as the river ruined the church he built almost 20 years ago. “Put it in the Lord’s hands. My hands aren’t big enough.”
Ten days after Florence came ashore, the storm caused fresh chaos Monday in Yauhannah and elsewhere across South Carolina, where rivers kept rising and thousands more people were told to be ready to evacuate.
Georgetown County offered free transportation to emergency shelters from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday in Pawley’s Island, saying pets are welcome as well as long as they’re kept in crates and have food and supplies. Georgetown County spent days under hurricane warnings before Hurricane Florence made landfall about 110 miles. up the coast near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
The worst of the initial landfall of storm stayed well north, causing only minor flooding in Georgetown and some downed limbs.
“We had a hurricane party,” Gantt said. “Now I don’t know what to do.”
Several blocks up Front Street, the main business district was busy, but with people leaving. All along the sidewalk were piles of artwork, antiques, and boxes as owners emptied out their inventory to take to higher ground.
Tomlinson department store sent an empty truck normally used to stock stores and employees rushed to fill it with everything. The store has never flooded, but predictions call for up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water by Thursday. “The anticipation has been nerve-wracking. Though, I’m glad we had the time to do this,” said district manager Kevin Plexico.
Georgetown positioned ambulances and firetrucks in the busy, tourist section along the beaches in case the floods cut off the U.S. Highway 17 bridges as expected. National Guard troops prepared to float more equipment across the river if needed. Exhausted emergency officials said they have lived nothing but Florence for more than two weeks.
“The work has been done,” Georgetown Mayor Brendon Barber said. “We just need to pray.”
The economic research firm Moody’s Analytics estimated that Florence has caused around $44 billion in damage and lost output, which would make it one of the 10 costliest U.S. hurricanes. The worst disaster, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, cost $192.2 billion in today’s dollars. Last year’s Hurricane Harvey cost $133.5 billion.