Main Street flooding drone pic

Main Street in Conway, looking towards downtown Conway, after the Waccamaw River and Crabtree Swamp flooded the area in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. 

Coastal Carolina University’s Dr. Jaime McCauley lives in Bucksport, and while her home was spared from Hurricane Florence’s floodwaters, she saw many around her that were not so lucky.

In response, McCauley organized a panel discussion and public forum at Coastal Carolina University for Monday at 6:30 p.m. in CCU’s Johnson Auditorium to discuss the impact of flooding on area communities and address concerns regarding flood response and mitigation.

Area residents who experienced flooding issues as well as the general public are invited to attend.

“I watched the water rise, and I went to bed every night not knowing how high it was going to be in the morning, or how high it was going to be going home after work,” McCauley said. “I was making evacuation decisions… it was weeks long stress. It finally ended when water got close to the house, but didn’t come in, and I was able to go on with my life. But I’m surrounded by people who were far more deeply impacted than I was.”

Shortly after the floods, McCauley began a Facebook group called Horry County Rising, to help bring together those who had been affected by the devastating inundation. She said she wanted to connect people to talk about what was happening, what could be done in the future to keep it from happening again.

The featured speaker at Monday’s gathering will be Dr. Paul Gayes, the executive director of the Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies, who will address questions from attendees. Panelists will be comprised of other residents from Socastee, Conway and Bucksport who were severely impacted by flooding.

Gayes said he has studied erosion and serves on the state floodwater task force and has worked on many other state issues. In the past, across the nation, he said, most tropical damage came from storm surges, but that has changed in the past decade.

He said the problem has shifted over to inland flooding, and the government is now spending a huge percentage of its discretionary expenses to help people recover from flooding.

“The climate is in fact changing, it is. That means what we designed for 50 years ago is not working,” Gayes said. “We’re changing the landscape, lots of people moving into the coastal belt, so that presents a really complex challenge. Ultimately, what kind of risk are you willing to live with? Fact is we live with that now.”

Gayes mentioned issues in other areas of the country, like New Orleans, where walls are not high enough, and worsening problems with the rising of the Mississippi Basin. He said flooding and bad storms are now the norm, mentioning large amounts of rainfall in Texas, and warmer than normal temperatures in Europe.

“Things are different than we experienced in the past. We have to factor that in,” Gayes said.

Gayes said any fix needs to be regional because when one community does something that helps, it just knocks the problem over to the next community.

While residents shouldn’t run away tomorrow, he said, kicking the problem into the future isn’t a good idea either. He hopes a vigorous panel discussion will help people decide what to do and convince them to start getting ready.

“There’s no magic bullet,” Gayes said.

McCauley said there are complicated decisions to make, and she wants to help people be aware of the positive and negative consequences of those decisions.

Johnson Auditorium is located in Room 116 of the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration.

Contact Jaime McCauley, in the Department of Sociology, at (843) 349-6965 or jmccauley@coastal.edu.

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