Thank God, the Waccamaw River crested in Conway yesterday, four feet above all previously recorded levels.
Now our prayers turn to our neighbors south of Conway in Bucksport and Georgetown.
Five mighty rivers flow into Georgetown and they are all glutted with water.
Here in the city also known as the rivertown, the recovery from the devastating flood can gradually begin.
It’s going to be a painstakingly slow process for many people. Weeks for some. Years for others. But we will recover.
Looking back over the past two weeks, the catastrophe generated a multitude of bad memories, but a few good ones, too.
Let’s start with roads.
High water closed several major highways in Horry County including S.C. 22, S.C. 9, S.C. 905, S.C. 90 and parts of U.S. 701 in Conway.
This resulted in much of the traffic from the Grand Strand going west to be funneled through Conway and this created massive traffic jams, particularly on Friday when the S.C. Department of Transportation closed U.S. 501 Bypass to complete construction of the flood barrier on that highway.
Speaking of the flood barrier, there will be a lot of discussion in the weeks ahead about the wisdom of building it. Water did not rise to the point that threatened to close U.S. 501 Bypass. Some people are already questioning if the barrier should have been built
My biggest fear as the flood increased in intensity was that Horry County would be cut off from the rest of the state. Fortunately, that did not happen.
The U.S. 501 bridge at Galivants Ferry stayed open as did U.S. 378 and U.S. 701 North. Most grocery stores and gas stations remained well stocked throughout the ordeal and that was a great blessing.
Despite dire warnings, U.S. 501 Business stayed open, providing at least one highway between Conway and Myrtle Beach. Had the water topped that old roadway, traffic conditions would have been greatly exacerbated.
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Horry County could not have asked for a better emergency response from every level of government during the impending disaster.
President Donald Trump became the first commander in chief to visit Conway and his presence was a great morale booster. He promised prompt federal assistance and I think he will live up to his word. Already FEMA officials are in the area as well as representatives from the Small Business Admin- istration.
The SCDOT, with the help of the S.C. National Guard, performed a small miracle building the flood barrier on U.S. 501 Bypass in such a short period of time. It was truly a major feat of engineering.
Horry County emergency teams, teams from other parts of the state and the nation, and the SCNG have rescued many people from floodwaters.
The City of Conway has also responded in magnificent fashion to the flooding. Basic services such as water, sewer and trash collection have continued throughout the natural disaster, a credit to the city staff.
However, the most impressive thing I’ve seen during the flooding has been the way neighbors have rallied to help other neighbors.
Time and time again we have seen neighbors, friends and total strangers rush to the aid of people who have been forced from their homes by the rising water.
They have helped move furniture and other valuables to higher positions, they have filled and delivered sandbags, There has been an outpouring of food, toiletries and other essentials to food banks and organizations working with the relief effort.
It’ is gratifying to see people come together during times of great need to help their brothers and sisters.
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Soon, people who have been driven from their homes by the flood can return apprehensively to their residences and businesses .
Based on my experience from other floods, this won’t be a pleasant experience. Flood waters leave behind a stench, dirt and destruction.
Many of those returning will have to ask themselves if it’s even worth the risk to try to rebuild their lives at the same locations.
People living on rivers have come to accept the consequences of living in flood-prone areas.
Hundreds of people living in parts of Conway and Horry County that have never flooded before must do a bit more soul searching.
For example, some neighborhoods in Conway have never been flooded. Should these people stay put? Most will, but others might want to consider a buyout from FEMA if it is offered.
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Once this natural disaster is behind us, our leaders must assess the damage and make some very difficult decisions about the future.
I think the county and the city have been far too lax about allowing construction in areas that are subject to flooding.
Building in a flood zone not only endangers the homeowner, it impacts everyone else, too.
Government must tighten building codes to lessen the chance of this happening again.