Horry County officials do not expect Hurricane Dorian to cause the type of major flooding that Hurricane Florence brought last year, but they are urging residents to be careful as the storm passes through the Grand Strand this week.
“It’s not going to stall out over the top of us like Florence did,” said Horry County Emergency Management Director Randy Webster, who said the storm is expected to bring 6-8 inches of rain to the county. Florence dumped more than 30 inches in some parts of the Carolinas.
The latest forecast for Dorian shows the storm drifting close to the coast as a Category 2 hurricane (96-110 mph winds), but with the eye of the storm staying at sea.
Speaking at a news conference Monday, Webster said winds from the hurricane could still cause widespread power outages and flash flooding in low-lying areas, but he doesn’t expect it to be the weeks-long event that Florence was. Flooding from the 2018 hurricane damaged about 2000 homes in the county. The county also experienced severe flooding after storms in 2015 and 2016.
A better example of what to expect would be 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, Webster said, but “less all the rain.” However, apart from the flooding it caused, Matthew’s winds knocked down many trees, eroded beaches and damaged piers.
“We will see impacts here in Horry County of some sort,” Webster said. “We are hopeful that this will be over with a lot quicker than we saw with both Matthew and Florence.”
One encouraging sign for the county is its swamps and rivers are not full, meaning the region can hold more water.
“We’ve got a lot of capacity,” Webster said.
Although the current track doesn’t show the eye of the storm making landfall in Horry, officials said even a slight change in the forecast could make conditions much worse here.
“We’ve been through a whole bunch of mess, especially in the last three years,” said county councilman Johnny Vaught. “This one, hopefully, is not going to be as bad as the one last year. … But we don’t want to discount the fact that this thing is still pretty far out.”
On Monday afternoon, Dorian was slowly moving through the Grand Bahama island as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 miles per hour, said meteorologist John Quagliariello of the National Weather Service. The storm is expected to gradually turn north and pass the South Carolina coast from Wednesday night through Thursday.
“Even with the forecast track offshore, Dorian will be expanding with impacts extending well away from the center,” Quagliariello said. “Any change to the track farther west, which is certainly possible, would bring with it greater impacts.”
Concerns about the storm prompted Gov. Henry McMaster to issue an evacuation order for the state's coastal communities, including the portion of Horry east of U.S. 17 Business. More than 30,000 people live in that area of the county, officials said.
By Monday afternoon, Webster said just 10 people were staying in local storm shelters, but he expects that number to grow as Dorian approaches. He also said steady traffic out of the Grand Strand indicates many folks are not sticking around.
During a separate news conference in Columbia, McMaster encouraged those affected by his evacuation order to heed the warning.
“This is the best way to keep South Carolinians alive,” he said. “It means getting out of the way of this dangerous storm.”