After Hurricane Matthew, the town of Nichols, South Carolina, faces once again the threat of being inundated as the Little Pee Dee River swells up. Kirk Brown, Anderson Independent Mail
NICHOLSÂ â€“ James Vitale Sr. started remodeling the Little Pee Dee Motel and Restaurant soon after the 2016 flood caused by Hurricane Matthew ravaged this small community in Marion County. He had planned to reopen the restaurant in about six weeks.
But Vitale realized that won’t happen after seeing a video Monday onÂ The Greenville News’Â Facebook page showing the business being inundated by the river for which it’s named.
“This is so devastating â€” two years hard work gone overnight,” he said.
Asked what he will do now, Vitale said, “I really don’t know.”
“I’m not a wealthy man,” he said. “It has taken all of my money to get to this point.”Â
Vitale had been living in the former motel before evacuating when Hurricane Florence approached last week.Â
Almost everyone else who lives in Nichols has fled from the town that is now facing another potentially devastating hurricane-related flood.
The Little Pee Dee River, which is on the east end of Nichols, rose by 13 feet between Friday night and Monday night. The Lumber River, which passes west of the town, rose by 7 feet during the same period. It unclear when and how high the rivers will crest.
Nichols is not alone.Â
Creeks and rivers across a 100-mile swath of the Pee Dee from Chesterfield County to Conway are expected to continue rising for at least the next few days as a result of two factors. Parts of northeastern South Carolina received upward of 15 inches of rain from Florence, and more thunderstorms rumbled through on Monday night.Â Water also is flowing into the region from North Carolina, where Florence dumped even more rain in many areas.
“The storm is not over,” Marion County Administrator Tim Harper said Monday. “Now is when we start seeing the flooding.”
Marion is one of eight counties included in a disaster declaration approved by President Donald Trump. Those counties will be eligible for federal money forÂ costs associated with emergency, life-safety actions during Hurricane Florence.
Harper said Marion County facilities sustained $1 million to $1Â˝ million in damage from Florence, including the collapse of a hangar at the county-owned airport.
About 200 people are currently staying in three storm shelters that remain open in Marion County. Harper said swift-water rescue teams have helped evacuate 300 people in the county thus far.
Several incidents that happened across the Pee Dee on Sunday and Monday highlighted the problems that flooding already is causing for residents, drivers and wildlife.
â–ş People living along Black Creek in Florence County were ordered to evacuate their homes Sunday, one day after a similar order had been rescinded. Record flooding is now forecast for the waterway, largely because Duke Energy is seeking to protect the integrity of a dam by releasing water from Lake Robinson, which is the origin of Black Creek.
â–şÂ Â A bridge spanning a creek on State 145 north of Chesterfield collapsed Monday as a tractor-trailer drove across it. The driver managed to avoid serious injury.
â–ş Two men were rescued Monday from atop a vehicle that had been swept away by flood waters near Bennettsville. The men were spotted by Gov. Henry McMaster and a helicopter crew as they toured the area from above.
â–ş Part of U.S. 76 was shut down Monday in Marion because of flooding. Numerous other roads are closed in Marion County, including at least threeÂ in Nichols,Â and water has been flowing across portions of State 41.
â–şÂ Late Monday night, Darlington County emergency managers warned residents that water was about to start coming over theÂ dam at Prestwood Lake, creating a potential threat to nearby homes.
“Buses are staged and ready to evacuate,” the county’s emergency management department stated in a Facebook post. “There will be a shelter available to any resident that is in need of a location to stay during the flooding.”
â–ş Citing high water levels, the state Department of Natural Resources announced that a 10-day hunting ban on all gameÂ species except alligators, dove, hogs and coyote will take effect Wednesday in the Pee Dee and Waccamaw river drainage systems. The agency also announced that seven wildlife management areas in the Pee Dee are being closed to vehicles until further notice.
Back in Nichols, Judy Sanderson was sitting in her yard while her husband and a friend prepared to use chainsaws to cut up a tree that had fallen on a shed as a result of the strong winds and soaked, softened ground from Florence. A road-closure barrier sat less than a block from their home on Kemper Street.
Sanderson said she and her husband had just returned from a trip to Florida. They wouldn’t be in townÂ long, she said.
“We won’t stayÂ here tonight,” said Sanderson, expressing her concern about the high odds of Nichols enduring another flood.
Glancing at the home where she was born and raised, Sanderson recalled how three feet of water made it inside during the 2016 flood. Afterward, all of the floors had to be replaced.
“I’m hoping it won’t get in the house this time,” she said.
Follow Kirk Brown on Twitter @KirkBrown_AIM and email him at email@example.com
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