Horry County will host a series of public meetings next week to seek resident input about how the community can become better prepared for floods.
The meetings are part of the response to the destruction Hurricane Florence brought to communities such as Conway, Socastee, Bucksport and Longs last year.
Many residents — including those whose homes have repeatedly flooded in recent years —have grown frustrated by the constant deluge, and county officials want to hear from them. During each meeting, the public is invited to share photos illustrating the flooding in their community.
“Our goal right now is to get people, especially people who have been impacted, to these meetings to take part,”said Courtney Kain, director of Horry County’s Community Development Office. “We don’t want anyone in the community to be excluded.”
Kain expects the full plan to include policy recommendations for planning and zoning, suggestions for infrastructure and road projects, and details about using resources.
“This is really designed to leverage itself into action,” Kain said.
April O’Leary with the Facebook group Horry County Rising has been helping flood victims stay informed about the county’s response to flooding.
“My goal is to empower them, engage them and make sure their voices are heard,” she said. Last year, the Conway woman’s own Busbee Street home flooded.
O’Leary said she supports the county’s efforts in getting the public involved, and the resilience plan itself can help the county identify the best way to utilize federal funds. As the county has multiple unmet needs, O’Leary said she hopes officials will pursue additional funding sources.
The county received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for consultants to help craft the resilience plan.
Because the county has seen flooding in 2015, 2016 and last year, the plan seeks to address recovery and mitigation hand-in-hand. The policy ideas that come from the plan will help county leaders make decisions going forward.
Additionally, proposals from the resilience plan could result in pilot programs, where different initiatives are tested in certain areas and monitored. O’Leary hopes the plan focuses on pockets of the community that have repetitively flooded and are considered the most vulnerable.
Horry County Government is working with a team of consultants led by Tom Jost of Sherwood Design Engineers. Also on the project team are ONE Architecture, West Carolina University’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines and CASE Consultants International.
“It’s definitely a collaborative effort,” Horry County spokeswoman Kelly Moore said.
In the aftermath of Florence, Gov. Henry McMaster formed a state floodwater commission that is tasked with coming up with recommendations to alleviate and mitigate flood impacts. O’Leary has suggested setting up a regional task force or coalition that looks at flood mitigation throughout the year, and not only catastrophic flood events.
County officials said they are considering many proposals when developing the plan.
“The first task is twofold, so the engineers and design team are pulling [and examining] all of the data and talking to folks in the neighborhoods,” Moore said. This will allow those working on the project to do sensitivity mapping and unmet need assessments.
Kain pointed out the project’s team, which includes scientists and professionals in the design field, is looking at what is causing flooding in the area and watersheds.
One matter the project team is examining is how to set up and establish priorities for a buyout program, which is where the government purchases flooded homes and razes them.
“We know the state is going to have money available for that type of a program,” Kain said, adding the county believes it should focus on neighborhood or area buyouts. County officials want residents whose homes are bought out to relocate outside of a flood zone.
After the county receives public input and continues its analysis, more discussions are expected for early next year, including talks about what should be prioritized.
Officials hope to have a plan ready by March.
Kain noted that there are active and educated members of the public who have done their own research and looked at steps other communities have implemented.
“We want them to bring those ideas to the table,” she said.
Each meeting will take place from 6-8 p.m. The dates and locations for each meeting are:
• Oct. 22: Socastee High School, 4900 Socastee Blvd., Myrtle Beach
• Oct. 23: North Strand Recreation Center, 120 State Highway 57 South, Little River
• Oct. 24: James R. Frazier Community Center, 1370 Bucksport Road, Bucksport