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Edisto River near Charleston and waterways in Myrtle Beach area flood after days of rain

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COTTAGEVILLE — Residents of this area around the Edisto River are accustomed to floods — events that come semiannually these days, with dark water swelling under elevated homes. 

But a spate of recent flooding, brought on by two weeks of persistent rain, has been a mess for at least one person in the Edisto's floodplain.

Diane Ciardi, who moved to her house on Breanna Court in 2018, has been stranded inside the dwelling for four days as the river rose around it. For part of that time she was without water, temporarily turning off her electric well's pump so it didn't suck up the muddy Edisto. 

Ciardi was still hunkered down alone with her three dogs, Belle, Carolina and Zoe, on the afternoon of Feb. 22. 

“In the future when this is predicted, I’m not going to be here,” said Ciardi, who is from New York and moved to the area after the last major flood, in 2015. 

Rivers along much of South Carolina's coastal plain are swollen after the rainfall that is only now draining into the Edisto and Ashley River in the Lowcountry and the Waccamaw River in the Grand Strand. 

The National Weather Service reports up to 10 inches of rain fell over the past 14 days in a broad swath of the state, stretching from North Augusta to Myrtle Beach. Now all that water is flowing downstream, spilling over low roads, flooding cars and reaching inside some of the most vulnerable homes.

Rivers were swollen in Dorchester and Colleton counties, but authorities said there is no indication of water inside the houses there.

Ciardi was particularly grateful that no water had entered hers. Levels are expected to fall over the next few days.

2-week rainfall 2/22/21

Rainfall totals for the two-week period preceding Feb. 22, 2021. Provided/National Weather Service

The situation is more serious in the Myrtle Beach area, with some of the lowest areas along the Intracoastal Waterway already swamped.

In the Rosewood Estates neighborhood of Socastee, near the junction of the Waccamaw River and Intracoastal Waterway, resident Terri Wilson said water is creeping up a boat landing and reaching the first line of houses that sit flat on the ground. 

For Rosewood, the waters are just the latest of several serious floods in the past few years. The weather service reported the water levels there could get 2 feet higher in the coming days. 

"This is not good," Wilson said. "We don't even know what to expect … none of us could believe it, but the water's coming up really fast."

Upstream in the city of Conway, water levels have reached the weather service's "major" category above 14 feet and are predicted to stay there at least through Feb. 27.

Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy said flooding has caused a few road closures in the city due to standing water and conditions would continue in part because of expected rain. 

“I’m afraid we’re not out of the woods yet," she said.

Thomas Bell, spokesman for Horry County Emergency Management, said the county was monitoring watercraft to make sure they did not send wakes into nearby houses and asked people from outside of flooded neighborhoods not to drive through the waters there. 

Along the upper Edisto River in the Lowcountry, however, water levels already peaked. Flooding is an almost semiannual occurrence there, said Barry McRoy, Colleton County Fire-Rescue chief.

One report from the rescue service said water levels on Feb. 20 were close to that of the 2015 flood, which drenched the entire state.

Water levels at the Givhan's Ferry river gauge reached above 15 feet over the weekend, which is into the weather service's major flood category, but had dipped back into the moderate category by Feb. 22.

McRoy said nobody has requested help along the Edisto, where houses sit high on stilts and many residents have boats at the ready to travel to and from their homes.

Fire Rescue crews did help evacuate Ivanhoe Apartments in Walterboro on Feb. 19, but by the next day, water levels had fallen enough that the complex was again accessible. 

On the other side of the river in Dorchester County, spokeswoman Tiffany Norton said there had been no calls to emergency authorities about river flooding.

There was some yard and road flooding in the Ashborough neighborhood of Summerville, where a few geese were spotted splashing in front of one elevated home. 

There is some good news on the horizon. While more rain was falling Feb. 22, the Climate Prediction Center is calling for a spring that's likely to be warmer than average in South Carolina, with no exceptional precipitation. The southern part of the coast may even be drier than normal. 

Chloe Johnson reported from Charleston and Jerrel Floyd from Cottageville. Hanna Strong contributed reporting from Myrtle Beach and Gregory Yee from Charleston. 

P210219 Asst Evac Ivanhoe 092.jpg

Colleton County Fire-Rescue and sheriff's deputies assisted city of Walterboro responders in evacuating residents from the Ivanhoe Apartments at 311 Ireland Creek Drive on Feb. 19, 2021. The residents were helped to the high-water vehicle and driven out to higher ground. Colleton County Fire-Rescue/Provided

Reach Chloe Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.

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