HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Thursday marked the first official day of the Atlantic hurricane season, and one of the larger concerns in Horry County is the flooding the area receives from hurricanes.
South Carolina is ranked as the fifth most hurricane-prone state, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Horry County is among the five most hazardous counties in the south,” said April O’Leary, founder of Horry County Rising. “So it’s really, really important that we stress how important it is for families to do everything they can to mitigate their flood risk. And also to make sure that they prepare for hurricane season.”
O’Leary is the founder of Horry County Rising, a group aimed at having better wetland protections by addressing flooding concerns.
“Horry County government has made significant progress in becoming more resilient,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t more work that we need to do.”
Horry County council passed some of the strongest flood protection laws in 2021, but recently rolled back some of those protections by reducing the elevation requirement in all of the counties flood zones from three feet to two feet.
“Horry County Rising was fiercely opposed to that. And the main reason is because the FEMA flood maps are off,” O’Leary said. “And in some cases north of Conway, they can be off anywhere between three to five feet. So, two foot elevation standard doesn’t really, presumably wouldn’t be enough protection if we were to have another flood event, like Hurricane Florence or Hurricane Matthew, which we will.”
It has been four to five years since Hurricane Florence and some communities, like Rosewood, are still recovering from the flood damage.
O’Leary said they are working to prevent this from happening to more areas, especially in Conway.
“We have a number of different goals that we’re pursuing this year. For example, we are very much opposed to, you know, altering, degrading or filling in our wetlands, to some degree that is going to be required for things like state roads,” she said. “But to build major subdivisions, we don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense.”
O’Leary said the county and local jurisdictions do a great job in informing residents about hurricane preparedness and have come up with great flood mitigation plans.
“The flood plan is great, but one of the things that worries me is there’s no real action,” she said. “It’s sort of a plan that has the potential to sit on a shelf. So, we’re concerned that there’s no real timeline about these goals that we hope to achieve.”
O’Leary said the county did form a wetlands committee, but is hoping to see more action done within county council in the future.