COLUMBIA — Georgetown County residents were urged Monday to flee low-lying areas ahead of the floodwaters that will consume them later this week.
"I hate to mention the 'e' word. We are not going to officially issue an evacuation order as part of this event," said county administrator Sel Hemingway. But anyone who's received an automated phone message needs to heed the warnings, he added.
Georgetown will be inundated by the murky stew that's already submerged other towns in the Pee Dee. The waters are expected to rise in the coastal city through late Wednesday or early Thursday. The rivers overwhelmed by the feet of rain dumped by Hurricane Florence more than a week ago all eventually empty into the Atlantic Ocean at Winyah Bay.
"It’s coming to Georgetown. That’s a fact. There’s no other way for the waters to get to the Atlantic Ocean," said the county's emergency management director, Sam Hodge.
Georgetown Mayor Brendon Barber said officials are doing all they can to prepare: "We just need to pray."
Here's the latest by-the-numbers look at Florence's aftermath:
A flood barrier along U.S. 501 in Conway, where the Waccamaw should crest Wednesday, is complete. That’s intended to keep at least one route to Myrtle Beach open.
Work on flood barriers along U.S. 17 at a key gateway to Georgetown continued Monday. But Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall warned her agency's efforts probably won't be enough to keep that route open.
"We're trying to keep this road open as long as we can," she said while standing in front of the bridge that crosses over the Great Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers. "This road will have to close at some point."
Hemingway said U.S. 521, on the other side of the city, may become the city's "lifeline." The DOT is also building barriers on a section there.
Where the water has receded, crews are making repairs, resulting in the number of road closures continuing to go down, according to the DOT.
There were 144 road and bridge closures in the Pee Dee as of 4 p.m. Monday, down from more than 230 a week ago.
The status of major routes such as U.S. 501, U.S. 17 and S.C. 22 are expected to change frequently.
The state Department of Transportation has an online, real-time map of flooding-related closures.
The DOT also encourages drivers to use its free 511 mobile app or call 511 for updated road conditions. Since 24-hour operations for the storm began, the 511 call center has received more than 40,000 calls. The app has been used nearly 220,000 times, according to the agency.
Pee Dee rivers and creeks were above flood stage in at least four monitored locations.
The Waccamaw River in Conway was almost 10 feet over its banks Monday after and was expected to continue to rise into Wednesday. The forecasted high of 22 feet would be more than 4 feet above the record set after Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Water levels are expected to stay above that record for days.
The Great Pee Dee River near Pee Dee in Marion County was still more than 8 feet above flood stage, but it's down by several feet after cresting Friday at almost 32 feet, which is near a record high.
The Little Pee Dee near Galivants Ferry was still 6 feet above flood stage Monday. But it also continues to recede after cresting Friday at 17.2 feet, just above the previous record.
Lynches River at Effingham in Florence County had receded to minor flooding by Monday, after cresting Saturday at nearly 3 feet above the flood stage.
Of the 11 emergency shelters open Monday afternoon, one is for people with special medical needs. Nearly 220 people total are staying in the shelters: 103 at the single shelter open in Marion County and 116 at seven shelters in Horry County, according to the Department of Social Services.
The number of storm-related fatalities across South Carolina stands at nine.