Recent road closures due to flooding on the Waccamaw River should serve as a reminder to elected officials to get off their duffs and learn from experience.
While water levels did not come close to the historic marks set in 2018, several important roads were closed due to the most recent flood and others were in peril of being closed.
S.C. 905 between Conway and East Country Club Drive closed during the most recent flood. And if a few more inches of rain had fallen, U.S. 701 North would probably have been closed, too. The Waccamaw crested at about three feet above flood stage Saturday, and thankfully the water is starting to recede.
In another week, this flood will just be an unpleasant memory for those impacted by it.
That shouldn’t be the case. If nothing else, this flood and the historic flood of 2018 send a clear signal to address major problems before the next gigantic storm hits and closes the county’s road system.
Hurricane Florence presented a worst-case scenario.
Remember when the S.C. National Guard built sandbag dikes to keep U.S. 501 open between Conway and Myrtle Beach?
S.C. 22 was submerged as were parts of S.C. 9 and S.C. 905. For a while, it appeared the U.S. 501 bridge at Galivants Ferry might be closed, but the Little Pee Dee River crested just before the main entrance to the coast had to be closed.
To my knowledge, Horry County Council and South Carolina highway officials have done nothing to address road closures caused by flooding, even though they must be keenly aware of the problem roads.
Such a casual attitude shows a blatant disregard for the future. Flooding will continue to cause problems in Horry County. Indeed, the potential for high water increases as rapid growth replaces valuable environmental areas.
Work should have begun immediately after Hurricane Florence to address at least the most critical roads impacted by flooding.
U.S. 501, for example, serves as a dam across the Waccamaw River and it causes water to back up into heavily-populated residential areas.
State and federal highway officials should plan now to replace the causeway with an elevated bridge that will allow water to flow freely.
Likewise, the same officials need to raise, or bridge, the low spot north of Conway on U.S. 701. This roadway has a history of closing even during flash floods.
S.C. 22, like U.S. 501 in Conway, acts as a dam causing water to back up on the Waccamaw River.
The stretch of S.C. 9 near Conway should also be raised a few feet so that smaller floods like the one experienced most recently will not result in road closures.
No, the county and the state may never be able to alleviate all of the suffering caused by flooding. People have been allowed to build in flood zones and there’s not much that can be done after the fact to provide significant relief.
However, leaders at every level of government should learn a lesson from past floods and fix the most serious problems.
While flooding will always be a problem here, some roads can, and must, be upgraded.
Steve Robertson, former publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers, wrote this column. His opinion does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Waccamaw Publishers and its website MyHorryNews. com.