COLUMBIA — Early estimates for the destruction Hurricane Florence contines to wreak in the Pee Dee region top $1.2 billion, Gov. Henry McMaster said Thursday in a letter to South Carolina's congressmen.
The letter serves as a heads up, asking the congressional delegation to support South Carolina's requests for federal assistance. The state has not sought any specific amounts yet. The estimates, calculated while rivers continue to rise, are based primarily on data from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015.
Actual damages for the storm could be much higher after the floodwaters recede and assessments are completed, officials said.
"Deadly localized flash flooding washed out roads and bridges, submerged homes and left residents stranded from Chesterfield all the way to Horry County," McMaster wrote. "The damage in the northeastern part of our state will be catastrphic, surpassing anything recorded in modern history."
Here's a by-the-numbers look at Florence's aftermath:
Flooding has forced about 190 road and bridge closures in the Pee Dee, as of 4 p.m. Thursday. That includes all lanes of Interstate 95 for more than 11 miles in Dillon and Florence counties, due to flooding at bridges over the Great Pee Dee River. Traffic cannot travel north on I-95 beyond exit 160. Major arteries to Myrtle Beach are closed or will close soon. S.C. 22, known as the Conway Bypass, is closed between S.C. 905 to S.C. 90 due to flooding from the Waccamaw River. S.C. 9, a major route through the Pee Dee to North Myrtle Beach, is closed in several locations. S.C. 707 is closed from the Myrtle Beach airport to the Georgetown County line. S.C. 905 is also blocked in several locations from the North Carolina border to Conway.
Work on the temporary, 1.5-mile barrier along U.S. 501 in Conway, intended to keep at least one route to Myrtle Beach open, wa expected to be finished Friday. When that's done, traffic will flow in two directions on the southbound side of the highway. While the number of closures has dipped from earlier this week, more are expected as the floodwaters flow south. The state Department of Transportation has an online, real-time map of flooding-related closures.
The floodwaters could impact more than 30,000 people in the Pee Dee, state emergency officials say. The agency has a three-day supply of food and water for 30,000 people at a distribution site in Florence and a separate supply for 3,000 people in Horry County. The S.C. National Guard has temporary bridges ready if needed.
Twelve emergency shelters, including two for people with special medical needs, remain open, housing 283 people total. Other locations are on standby in case they're needed.
Eleven dams, including four in Marlboro County and three in Darlington County, had burst as of Thursday morning, though none of them are rated life-threatening, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Pee Dee rivers and creeks were at flood stage in at least six monitored locations Thursday. The Great Pee Dee River in Cheraw had receded to minor flooding, after cresting at 46.6 feet earlier this week. It was expected to be back within its banks below 30 feet at that location Friday. The Little Pee Dee River near Galivants Ferry was expected to crest Friday morning, 8 feet above flood stage, matching a previous record.
Black Creek near Quinby crested Monday and continues to recede. There's minor flooding at the Santee River near Jamestown. It should be below flood stage Saturday. The Lynches River is forecast to flood in Florence County over the weekend.
The Waccamaw River in Conway was already 5 feet over its banks Thursday and is expected to continue to rise through at least Tuesday, surpassing a 1999 record.
Coastal Carolina University on Thursday canceled classes through Sept. 28, representing a third week of closings for the public university in Conway. Dorms will also remain closed. The school's nearly 11,000 students were asked not to return until they're notified.