Tropical Weather South Carolina

Stoney Williamson unloads a generator for his brother-in-law (at back), whose home flooded two years ago from Hurricane Matthew, as Harry Campbell (left) looks on in Nichols on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast. David Goldman/AP

Florence, which made landfall Friday as a Category 1 hurricane but was later downgraded to a tropical storm, has been anything but predictable. The consistent message has been to brace for rain and wind. We asked officials and experts what residents in the Pee Dee, Midlands and the Charleston area can expect in the days to come.

The Lowcountry

Rain: 2 to 5 inches in Berkeley County; up to 5 inches in northern Charleston County and up 1.5 inches in southern Charleston County; 1.5 to 2.5 inches in Dorchester County 

Wind: Gusts of 60 mph near the Santee River; 40 to 45 mph along Interstate 26; 30 to 35 mph in southern Dorchester Charleston counties; open waters such as Lake Moultrie will be hazardous

Timing: Friday into Saturday

In general, the weather will be testier the farther north of Charleston you are. And the storm will leave one odd legacy in the area. 

The beaches and Charleston Harbor will see the tide recede dramatically on Saturday at about 6 or 7 p.m., said meteorologist Mike Emlaw of the National Weather Service in Charleston. The low tide likely won't break any records, but it will be a rarity.

Earlier concerns have eased about the possibility of a punishing storm surge on Sunday as the winds of Florence start coming more from the south. Emlaw said of the surge, "We don't really anticipate now that this has much of a chance of happening."

Pee Dee

Rain: Up to 15" — heavier closer to the border with North Carolina

Winds: Gusts up to 55 mph

Timing: Core of storm to arrive midnight Friday and last through Sunday

With Florence expecting to stall as it heads inland, residents throughout the Pee Dee are preparing for a slog.

The area is expected to receive more rain than nearly anywhere else in the state, with the powerful storm stalling as it heads inland, dumping 10 to 20 inches of rain, depending on the location.

Cities like Cheraw, Dillon, Conway and Florence are preparing for flooded streets and backed up stormwater systems as Florence takes its time moving into the Midlands on Saturday and early Sunday. Towns such as Nichols, along the Little Pee Dee and Lumber rivers, could well go underwater for the second time in as many years

Florence City Manager Drew Griffin said he's dispatched crews throughout the city to stop the sheets of rain from backing up drains and flooding roadways. But some of the city's infrastructure, he said, still isn't prepared to handle the massive amount of precipitation the forecast is calling for.

The biggest threat to homes and businesses in the Pee Dee, however, is likely to be the rivers and tiny streams throughout the region.

Flooding forecasts provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show those bodies of water are expected to swell late Sunday and early Monday as the rainfall currently hitting North Carolina heads toward the ocean.

The Little Pee Dee, the Waccamaw, the Great Pee Dee and the Black rivers, according to the forecasts, will all reach or exceed flood levels at the beginning of next week.

Even small streams like Black Creek, just north of Florence, are expected to hit or surpass historic levels.

The city of Florence, Griffin said, will largely escape the damage from river flooding, but many smaller communities along their banks may not be so fortunate.

Midlands

Rain: 4 to 8 inches

Winds: Gusts up to 50 mph

Timing: Friday into Saturday

The track of Florence — southwest into the Midlands turning northwest into the mountains — is very unusual. John Quagliariello, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Columbia, said he couldn't recall another one like it in South Carolina.

“It looks like much of the state will be impacted by damaging winds and there will be a loss of power for much of the state,” Quagliariello said.

But the biggest concern will be for the northeast areas of the Midlands nearest to the Pee Dee.

“Catastrophic rainfall amounts” for the northeast that could bring “deadly flash flooding, then heading into next week significant rises on rivers in the Pee Dee basin,” particularly on the Waccamaw and Pee Dee rivers, he said. “We could see record flooding along those gauges.”

Quagliariello advised that getting home Friday night won't be a problem, but getting home Saturday night might be another matter.

 

Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 1-843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.