MARION, S.C. – Floodwaters from the aftermath of Hurricane Florence arrived Tuesday in the town of Nichols, and water continued to rise Wednesday, according to Marion County officials.
“Nichols is experiencing severe flooding at this time,” Marion County Administrator Tim Harper said. “The water is already covering the town.”
Officials are now monitoring the situation in the Gresham and Brittons Neck communities in the southern portion of the county for possible major flooding. The area is where the Little Pee Dee River and Great Pee Dee River merge before heading to the Atlantic Ocean.
Marion County Emergency Management led a public meeting Tuesday in Gresham with Harper, Councilman Tom Shaw, members of the Emergency Operations Center, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the S.C. National Guard, the Department of Social Services and South Carolina Emergency Management.
“There is no mandatory evacuation, but we met with the community to explain what is going on and encourage evacuations if the water levels start to rise,” Harper said. “We’ve got resources already in the county in place if we start to have any flooding. There is a strong possibility there could be severe flooding in the southern part of the county.”
Harper said if flooding starts to occur, they will notify the public, but he encourages residents to have a plan in place if they need to evacuate.
Two shelters remain open in the county at the Mullins Recreation Gym on Park Street in Mullins and the A.C. Tollison Gym in Marion. Harper said the shelter in Creek Bridge is closed because of flooding concerns but will open additional shelters in Marion as needed.
Marion County Emergency Management Director David Holcombe’s discussion items during the meeting were the county’s preparation before and during the hurricane and flooding event, stressing the dangers to life and property of past and current event.
“We informed them that this event may cause extreme flooding from the Lumber River, Little Pee Dee River and The Great Pee Dee River,” he said. “We also stressed that if the citizens felt in danger due to flood waters, there would be shelters open to give them a place to go.”
Several agencies are staged in Marion for assistance, and Mayor Ashley Brady has spent several days visiting shelters and monitoring the city’s streets.
“I think the Marion Police Department and city of Marion Fire Department have done an excellent job,” he said. “They have been prepared to weather the storm, and we did all of the advance planning that we could. We actually started a week before the storm even hit.”
Brady said crews conducted search and rescue activities getting people out of rising storm water.
Marion has several rescue teams on site along with the Red Cross helping at the shelter along with two mobile cooking trailers providing meals from the Salvation Army. The Southern Baptist Convention has brought in a mobile shower unit and laundry trailer for first responders.
“It’s tremendous,” Brady said. “I was quite impressed with the assets that Duke Energy has brought in. All of the agencies and assets were fantastic, and the state of South Carolina brought all of the search and rescue operations being housed at our Shannon Wilkerson gym. I think all of these agencies that have come to help us have been a tremendous asset. I really think the state was well-prepared for this one.”
Although most of the streets within the city limits are open, a couple are closed as a result of storm damage.
Catfish Creek on West Bobby Gerald Parkway is barricaded off from North Withlacoochee Road to West Marion Road. It also has affected a patch of U.S. 76 where the ground beneath the asphalt has washed away. The South Carolina Department of Transportation is assessing the damage.
“It’s pretty much holding steady at Catfish Creek,” Brady said. “It’s off the highways, but there is some underwash.”
Brady said he felt the city did well in response to the hurricane and its aftermath.
“Hats off to the guys in the Public Works Department,” he said. “They came in after the storm Saturday, and we had all of the streets and town passable except two streets with downed power lines. Then the rain came.”
In other news, the Marion County School District announced that all schools will be closed for the remainder of the week.