CONWAY—Catholic Charities of South Carolina is racing against the clock to get supplies in place to help Hurricane Florence victims in Horry County.
Potentially historic river flooding has already begun in the wake of Florence and threatens to severely limit access to the county if water levels reach their expected high levels by the end of the week.
Emergency management officials in Horry County announced Monday Sept. 17 that they were preparing for a disastrous flooding situation that could possibly leave the county cut off from the rest of the state by floodwaters. News outlets in Horry County were reporting that officials are considering how to handle the situation if flood waters make U.S. 17 and U.S. 378 impassable.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation has already started construction on a 1.5 mile flood control barrier along U.S. 501 in Conway to try to keep waters from the Waccamaw River from topping the road. Officials are also watching flood levels on the Little Pee Dee River at Galivants Ferry, where water could top U.S. 501; and along the Lumber River in Marion County to the north, where flooding could block S.C. 9.
The U.S. Army and the National Guard were already carrying out air and truck rescues at some locations in Loris, Longs and outside Conway in Horry County on Monday.
Kelly Kaminski, director of disaster services for Catholic Charities, said the agency has moved its emergency operations center back to its Conway office from Greenville. She is currently working with the county’s Emergency Management Division to coordinate supply distribution centers and determine where the need is greatest.
“We are working to get needed supplies into the county today (Monday) and tomorrow, trying to prepare for the possibility that there will only be one way in and one way out,” Kaminski said Monday afternoon. “That is the big worry.”
On Monday, Kaminski was inspecting possible additional storage sites for supplies at parishes around the Grand Strand area, seeking an area that would be well away from floodwaters. Many supplies are being stored at the agency’s office off U.S. 501 outside Conway, which is not in a flood zone. The main office does not have storage capacity for all of the supplies headed to the area.
Kaminski said the agency is also monitoring the river situation in Georgetown County, where the Black River is the main threat for flooding. So far, however, she said major flooding issues are not expected in Georgetown as of Monday, and no requests for help have come from there.
Flooding is also causing havoc in nearby Marion, Dillon and Chesterfield Counties, with water rescues and evacuations underway, roads washing out and at least one dam in the area at risk of failing. Kaminski said so far no requests for help have come in from those counties, but Catholic Charities will stay in touch with them and provide help as needed. The Marion County town of Nichols was inundated by the Lumber River after Hurricane Matthew and is being threatened by Florence as well.
Kaminski said that monetary donations are the best way to help Catholic Charities’ efforts at this time because they enable workers to purchase needed supplies locally, which will be especially crucial if roadways are cut off by flooding.
Those who want to donate can visit www.charitiessc.org/donate or text “Disaster” to 555888.
Those who would rather donate supplies should check with their local Catholic Charities office to see if they are open and where donations should be dropped off. Catholic Charities of South Carolina is asking for donations of the following to help storm victims: cases of water, tarps, baby items, adult diapers, non-perishable food items, trash bags, sunscreen, bug spray, cleaning supplies, and gift cards to stores such as Walmart, Target, Lowe’s and Home Depot.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone on Monday authorized a second collection to assist people affected by Florence in both Carolinas. The collection may take place as soon as possible.
While it is still too early to determine how flooding will affect parishes around the Pee Dee area, as of Monday afternoon no claims from around the diocese had been filed related to the storm, according to Eric H. Meister, Catholic Mutual’s claims risk manager for the Diocese of Charleston. Meister said some reports of damage such as rain entering buildings had been reported in Dillon and Marion counties, but no claims had been filed. Catholic Mutual will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds.
All photos, Miscellany/Keith Jacobs: Top image, a driver looks out his window to gauge the depth of a flooded road before backing up in search of a different route in downtown Conway.