LONGS, SC (WMBF) – SCDOT crews continue to monitor roads and bridges affected by flood water.
The bridge on Highway 9 in Longs over the Waccamaw River is just one of the bridges SCDOT is watching closely.
The river flooding coming in fast through the bridge on Highway 501 in Galivants Ferry has SCDOT Chairman of the Highway Commission Mike Wooten concerned for the bridge's foundation.
"They are not adequately pinned to the pile caps, so if you get a lot of pressure and a lot of lift from the river, it could literally wipe out the bridges," said Mike Wooten Thursday.
Wooten says this is why they are watching the bridges hour by hour - not because they fear water going over the bridges but because they don't know what's going on underneath them.
"To determine what we should do, we don't want to lose those bridges. So we would rather lose a section of 501 than the bridge. You can get the road put back a lot quicker than you could put back a bridge," Wooten explained.
Wooten said removing a portion of 501 would allow the river to flow more freely, taking pressure off the bridge. The road would only take days to replace whereas the other option, bringing in portable bridges if needed, could take much longer.
"We would probably be able to bring those in and somehow fabricate something to allow at least some traffic, but that would take weeks. The actual replacement of the bridge if all of them got knocked out would take months," he said.
However, the latest reports have Wooten hopeful the worst is over. At least with the Little Pee Dee River, these options will not be needed but SCDOT will be playing it safe even after the water goes down.
"So the smart thing to do, and the safe thing to do, is inspect the foundations with a diver to ensure they have not been scoured before you place the load on the bridge," he added.
Wooten said the latest flooding with Hurricane Matthew supports an existing argument.
"For the last 24 years we have been telling everybody that we need I-73 for these kinds of reasons - if Highway 9 is blocked and Highway 501 is impassable, we're pretty much stuck on an island here," he said.
Wooten said an interstate would also be elevated so flooding wouldn't be an issue. As for the situation at hand, he expects more answers next week, after the water goes down.