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'We just need to pray:' Evacuations underway in Georgetown, South Carolina, as 'historic' flooding looms

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
September 25, 2018, 11:32:03 AM EDT

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More than a week after Hurricane Florence’s landfall, evacuations are still taking place around the Carolinas as swollen rivers that have reached record heights continue to push the water farther downstream where anxious communities await.

While the Little Pee Dee River in South Carolina has crested farther upstream, it still remains above major flood stage. The Waccamaw River near Conway, South Carolina, is forecast to reach a record stage of 22 feet on Wednesday and remain above record levels into the weekend.

"Multiple meandering rivers such as the Pee Dee, Lynches, Black and Waccamaw converge on the Georgetown County, South Carolina, lowlands [which] is where the surge of water will now focus over the next week," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

Barricades block a flooded road near Georgetown, S.C., on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Officials in Georgetown County have asked for thousands of people to evacuate as the floodwaters from Hurricane Florence make their way to the ocean.

(Associated Press/Jeffrey Collins)

Employees at Tomlinson Department Store take all the merchandise out of the store in Georgetown, South Carolina, on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Officials have been warning of record flooding in the area from Hurricane Florence for days.

(Jeffrey Collins/Associated Press)

Employees at Tomlinson Department Store take all the merchandise out of the store in Georgetown, South Carolina, on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Officials have been warning of record flooding in the area from Hurricane Florence for days.

(Associated Press/Jeffrey Collins)

A house built in 1737 whose owner has been told it has never flooded is seen in Georgetown, South Carolina, on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. The house’s luck may run out as officials predict record flooding from Hurricane Florence.

(AP Photo/Jeffrey S. Collins)

Pastor Willie Lowrimore talks about the flooding of his church in Yauhannah, S.C., on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. The church is on the bank of the Waccamaw River which has already risen above its record crest and is expected to keep rising for several days, forcing thousands of evacuations in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

(AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

This Monday, Sept. 17, 2018 photo shows rising flood waters in the Pee Dee area in Marion County, S.C.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A resident stands on her pier looking out onto the rising Waccamaw River in Conway, S.C., Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. Residents are evacuating as the river is expected to flood in the coming days due heavy rains from Hurricane Florence. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Barriers intended to keep floodwaters from overtopping Highway 378 are put into place, in anticipation of river flooding, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Scranton, S.C., Monday, Sept. 17, 2018.

(AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

People use a road as a boat ramp after Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in Conway, S.C. Many rivers in the Carolinas are approaching record flood stages and their levels will continue to rise through the week.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

William Larymore, right, of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and Salvatore Cirencione, of the State Law Enforcement Division, help resident Franklin Bessemer, who lives on the river, onto the pier on the Waccamaw River in Conway, S.C., Monday, Sept. 17, 2018.The river is expected to flood in the coming days due heavy rains from Hurricane Florence. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Ahead of the anticipated historic flooding, on Monday, the Georgetown County, South Carolina, government issued mandatory evacuation orders for nearly 8,000 people.

“Residents who live in flood zones along the Intracoastal Waterway, Waccamaw River, and Pee Dee River, or who live in areas that may not be in a flood zone but may become isolated due to deteriorating road conditions, are strongly urged to consider evacuation for their own safety and the safety of first responders,” officials said in a statement.

Parts of the city of Georgetown could see floodwaters as high as 10 feet, according to a flood mapping service from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Georgetown is located about an hour southwest of Myrtle Beach.

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Residents in need of evacuation were directed to several area shelters that were set up at local hospitals.

“The work has been done,” Georgetown Mayor Brendon Barber said to the AP. “We just need to pray.”

Local law enforcement officials announced they were sending officers to Georgetown to help with flooding recovery and evacuations. High water rescue vehicles have also been stockpiled, and over 2 million sandbags have been placed on roadways throughout South Carolina.

Over 2,000 South Carolina national guard soldiers and airmen have deployed to the PeeDee area to help construct flood barriers and devise secondary plans of action where the Highway 17 “Ocean Highway” bridges converge at Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers in Winyah Bay.

Highway 17 and all bridges remained open as of early Tuesday morning.


The AP reported that many store owners in the city's main business district were clearing out their inventory and moving it to higher ground.

“The anticipation has been nerve-wracking. Though, I’m glad we had the time to do this,” district manager Kevin Plexico told the AP.

At least 47 people have died across the Carolinas and Virginia from Florence.

The impacts of Florence's slow-moving disaster will be felt for weeks even after the floodwaters finally submerge.

AccuWeather estimates that Florence's total economic toll will be between $50 and 60 billion when considering factors such as damaged homes and cars as well as lost property, valuables and wages, according to AccuWeather Founder and President Dr. Joel N. Myers.

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