South Carolina Coast Braces For Worst Flooding Yet More Than a Week After Florence

Floodwaters in Conway, South Carolina, are set to rise in the coming days.
Floodwaters in Conway, South Carolina, are set to rise in the coming days.
Photo: Getty

South Carolina has been dealing with flooding since Florence arrived at the coast on September 13. More than a week later, the situation is only worsening for some coastal residents. Potentially record-breaking flood waters are set to inundate areas that didn’t see much flooding last week along the northeastern coast of South Carolina, home to the popular Grand Strand beaches.

Advertisement

That’s because rain can take a little while to travel downhill through rivers and streams before reaching the ocean. In this case, we’re talking about rain making its way through the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin, which covers more than 7,000 square miles from northern North Carolina to the South Carolina coast. You can think of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin as a bathtub, according to Frank Alsheimer, the science and operations officer at the National Weather Service’s office in Columbia, South Carolina.

“It doesn’t matter where you fill up a bathtub with water, it’s going to fill up anyway because you have edges on either side,” Alsheimer told Earther. “Any rain that falls, all the way up this far north as northern North Carolina, gets into the basin and very slowly drains down toward the coast.”

This drainage—into the communities in Georgetown County, South Carolina, as well as the cities of Conway and Myrtle Beach—could affect up to 30,000 people in the area, said Derrec Becker, the chief communications officer at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division to Earther. No mandatory evacuations are in place yet, but many are self-evacuating as they brace for more water. The 11 shelters in South Carolina are just 3 percent occupied so far, Becker told Earther.

This home may have been dry a week ago, but not anymore as the floodwaters begin to rise along South Carolina’s northeastern coast.
This home may have been dry a week ago, but not anymore as the floodwaters begin to rise along South Carolina’s northeastern coast.
Photo: Getty

“[The flooding is] probably going to get more severe,” he said.

Currently, flood waters along the Waccamaw River near Conway, South Carolina, sit at about 20.75 feet, Alsheimer said. This already breaks the previous record of 17.9 feet. And it’s more than 10 feet above the flood stage for the Waccamaw River, which is fueling the dangerous situation in these areas. Still, an additional two feet of floodwater is forecasted to impact the region by Wednesday.

Advertisement

The record-breaking nature of the flood threat speaks to the fact that while rainfall tends to be localized along the basin, this time, the basin got hit from all angles.

Advertisement

“This particular event is extremely uncommon,” Alsheimer said. “We’re talking about unprecedented levels we haven’t seen before, and because of that, we’re going to have a lot of personal suffering of people who live in areas that were never flooded before but will be flooded because of this event.”

This storm has already left at least 42 people dead throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. It’s laid the groundwork for a public health crisis due to released animal feces, carcasses, and toxic waste. And some places haven’t even seen the worst of it.

Advertisement
Floodwaters require boats in this area near Conway, South Carolina.
Floodwaters require boats in this area near Conway, South Carolina.
Photo: Getty

Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

DISCUSSION

dnapl
Dense non aqueous phase liquid

Does anybody know about NASA’s Integrated Precipitation and Hydrology Experiment or IPHEx? Like is it still being funded? There doesn’t seem to be much after 2015 or so.

Trump’s hatchetmen were going to gut all funding to NASA that pointed satellites towards earth to help out earth scientists. Probably none of the jagoffs voted for him anyway.

IPHEx was a pretty cool space and earth science mission between Duke University, NASA and NOAA to tie in precipitation and hydrology for almost real time flooding potential. The research and pilot work took place in NC within the Yadkin Pee-Dee River Basin.

From the website, the mission would kind of be helpful to the folks in SC. Here’s a blurb about IPHEx:

The Integrated Precipitation and Hydrology Experiment (IPHEx) is a ground validation field campaign that will take place in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States from May 1 to June 15, 2014. IPHEx is co-led by NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement mission, with partners at Duke University and NOAA’s Hydrometerological Testbed. 

The field campaign has two primary goals. The first is to evaluate how well observations from precipitation-monitoring satellites, including the recently launched GPM Core Observatory, match up to the best estimate of the true precipitation measured at ground level and how that precipitation is distributed in clouds. The second is to use the collected precipitation data to evaluate models that describe and predict the hydrology of the region. These models are used for predicting how much water is available in rivers and aquifers, for resource management and for flood and landslide prediction in the Upper Tennessee, Catawba-Santee, Yadkin-Pee Dee and Savannah river basins.

And the river basin in question (it’s the lavender colored basin on the right of the map).

The river basin I discussed here, called the Yadkin Pee-Dee Basin, was also mentioned by Yessenia in her excellent post and is the basin that may see drastic flooding. So on topic.

What would be off topic would be me ranting on and on about how a university prestigious in hydrogeology, hydrology and some other earth shit like Duke could graduate an asshole like Stephen Miller. And maybe that one Earther grey commenter who said hydrogeology was for pussies and stupid. Now that’s a rant.