MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - One of the biggest stories and weather headlines we covered in 2018 is Hurricane Florence.
The destructive storm brought record flooding, we were live on air for you for 35 hours and continued coverage for weeks to tell your stories.
It wasn’t a so distant memory for many in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee to see the National Guard and police forces coming into communities, directing traffic, helping out, and getting people ready for the storm’s impact for a monster storm.
“Now is the time to go because that window of opportunity is closing for you, very quickly,” Governor Henry McMaster said as the storm approached landfall.
Many evacuated ahead of the storm, but some stayed to ride it out.
“I filled my bathtub I have containers, filled with water,” Thomas Lafluer who waited out the storm said. “And just pray to God that my house is here when it’s done.”
“We went and got a generator, we got plenty of water,” Lisa Davis also waited out the storm.
“We’re going to be boarding up the house today,” and so did Paula Nunez.
At 7:35 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach with 90 mph winds.
From the coast to the Pee Dee, we waited. Then we watched Hurricane Florence pummel North Carolina.
A few downed power lines and trees, but not too much damage for the Grand Strand compared to Hurricane Matthew. Then the waiting game began for those near the rivers.
“I think what bothers me the most is a half mile from here, life’s back to normal and they don’t have a clue what we’re going through," Dan, Lee’s Landing resident said holding back tears.
After ten inches of rain was dumped in Myrtle Beach, 12 in Conway, 18 in Lumberton, 19 in Bennettsville, and 24 inches of rain in Longs, the real damage was creeping closer, flooding.
“We’re a community," Edward Molarsky with South Carolina Disaster Relief said. "Everyone’s equal in this. Nobody is richer or poorer everybody has something coming their way and we’ll just pick each other up.”
We saw it in Socastee, hundreds showing up to help those who had fears of losing their homes to floodwaters.
We saw it in Lumberton when the Cajun Navy arrived and the Raft Swamp Fire Department opened ITS doors for shelter.
Highway 501 became a parking lot and as the Department of Transportation worked to build a barrier to keep the water out, it just kept rising.
“What we’re more worried about at this point is when the storm is over when the water recedes when the flooding is away, what sort of impact is that going to have on this community, how much are they going to be facing? How much damage are they going to have how much money are they going to have to put back into their homes," said Adam Emrick, the Conway city administrator.
“We’re working with everyone on the state level, the federal level and we are just stressing how much we need help if we want to remain a town," the Mayor of Nichols, Lawson Battle, said. "If we don’t get some help right now we’ll be a community”
Despite the positivity and the love we witnessed in our stories for everyone helping each other, the water came. Hitting towns like Nichols, hard. And it was devastating.
“It’s completely heartbreaking but we are going to work on it, we aren’t gonna give up. Nichols has always been strong, we are going and we are going to make it,” Battle said.
“We haven’t slept," Melissa Hartsog said. "Every night, making marks in the road. We’re just going out monitoring it seeing how far it’s coming up.”
“Now it’s more frustration and hopelessness, um people trying to decide whether they want to go through this again another time or if it’s time to move on,” Billy Floyd said.
“Devastating,” Marie Freimut said. “They couldn’t get the door open. When I did talk to him he said everything is out of place, swollen and everything was popping. We told him not to stay in there because the odor was so bad, he left house crying it’s heartbreaking their lives here.”
Lumberton, Bennettsville, most of Marion County, Longs, Socastee, Conway, communities like Aberdeen and Rosewood were inundated with water. Thousands of police, first responders and city workers put in countless hours to keep you safe and up to date.
After reaching historic levels, the Waccamaw, Great Pee Dee, and Lumber rivers receded. Leaving behind mere pieces of people’s lives.
“We got our work cut out for us, but we’ll get there, somehow, someway we’ll get there,” James Shelley, a Conway resident said.
People returned, and the hard work began.
The road to recovery is still going on for many, the memories will never go away and neither will the resiliency of these Carolinians.