Under calm, blue skies, eight days after Florence’s final drops rained down, parts of northeast South Carolina and southeast North Carolina are experiencing devastating flooding from the long-departed hurricane. Entire communities are underwater as some rivers continue to rise.
Conway, S.C., which is less than 15 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach, saw some of the most severe flooding on Monday. The Waccamaw River rose to a record and wasn’t forecast to crest until Wednesday, more than four feet above its previous high mark.
This “underscores why long-lived, significant flood events can cause so much human suffering,” tweeted Taylor Trogdon, a meteorologist who is a contractor for the Federal government. “Hurricane Florence made landfall on September 14th, 10 days ago, and the Waccamaw River near Conway hasn’t crested yet, remaining in record stage.”
The National Weather Service said the river level would crest two feet higher than hurricanes Matthew in 2016 and Floyd in 1999.
“This particular event is extremely uncommon,” Frank Alsheimer, the science and operations officer at the National Weather Service’s office in Columbia, S.C., told Earther. “We’re talking about unprecedented levels we haven’t seen before, and because of that, we’re going to have a lot of personal suffering of people who live in areas that were never flooded before but will be flooded because of this event.”
Video footage showed vast areas, including entire residential zones, covered in water in Conway and other parts of northeast South Carolina and southeast North Carolina.
In the Pee Dee region of northeast South Carolina, just east of Florence, “catastrophic flooding” was occurring Monday, according to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. It tweeted, “SCDOT crews are shoring up major roads as best they can. Now is not the time to be distracted by what roads may be open and what roads may be closed...we don’t know and won’t know until they flood."
The slow arrival of the floodwaters is the result of the time it takes the water from swollen rivers within North Carolina’s interior to flow downstream. It’s a considerable distance from the interior of the Carolinas to the shore, and the terrain flattens out along the coastal plain, which delays the drainage of water into the lowlands.
More than 40 people have died as a result of Florence. The storm set records for rainfall from hurricanes in both North Carolina and South Carolina, unloading up to three feet of water. It exited the East Coast on Wednesday, but its effects will linger for several more days, at least.
A piece of the former storm may be steered back toward the North Carolina Outer Banks, brushing the region with a little more rain midweek.