Strange Places
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24 Hours in a Flood Plain (A Cautionary Tale)

Reposting this account of an ill fated trip to Myrtle beach a few years ago. I know for many there is an urge to rush back to pre-COVID activities for a sense of normalcy. I can definitely sympathize, I almost became stranded in a flood zone because I didn’t want to give up a much anticipated beach weekend after a major hurricane passed over the area I was traveling to. Trust me, ignoring warnings and red flags for a trip, a party, or other high risk activity is not worth it.

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I wish I could say the above picture was from a quiet weekend at Myrtle Beach, spent relaxing on the beach and catching up on submissions. Unfortunately, it was the single bright moment in a 24 hour nightmare.

I scheduled my trip to Myrtle beach back in late July, long before hurricane Florence was even a rainstorm. I even added trip insurance to my hotel booking, well aware that September is an active month for hurricanes. The week before left, I had confirmed several times that my hotel would be open, after all, Florence had only struck the area the weekend before. I checked the website, my email, and called the front desk, all confirming that the hotel was operating, and everything was fine.

What I didn’t know was that the rivers surrounding the Myrtle Beach area were slowly rising. As I drove down the 501 across South Carolina, I started to notice how close the water was to the road. Traffic was redirected at one point by the National Guard to a small bridge in Conway, SC. I sat in the bottlenecked traffic for over an hour. Roads leading to the river the town was next to were all blocked off. I didn’t think much of it, but I should have.

I had only been to Myrtle beach once before, and had no idea this small bridge was not the normal way to enter the Myrtle Beach area. Once I crossed over, traffic flowing north in the opposite direction was backed up for miles. Naively, I thought it was people who had sheltered from the storm that were now heading home. Quite the opposite.

When I arrived at my hotel, I was shocked when the front desk told me they were closed and all reservations were cancelled. I was never notified because I booked through Priceline, and the hotel did not have my contact information. Shocked, I trudged back to my car with my overnight bag. I took a few quick pictures of the beach and left.

As it turns out, the water creeping up from the banks of the three major rivers in the area were threatening to overtake local bridges and cut off road access to Myrtle Beach completely. Panicked, I tried to find a different route out then the way I drove in. The traffic going over that small bridge was creating an eight hour delay, and I would still need to drive another three hours to get home once I made it across.

After driving around for an hour, I realized every road I turned down was covered with water. It was now 7:30pm and getting dark, which would make seeing water on the road more difficult. I was able to get a room at a hotel by the highway for the night, and after some internet research, made a plan to get up at 5 am to drive 40 minutes south over a different bridge and then drive another two hours  to Charlestown, SC. There I would turn north and make the four hour drive home to Charlotte. It was the only guaranteed way to avoid roads that had flooded overnight.

The bridge I drove to in the morning to leave the Myrtle Beach area was still in danger of being flooded over, just not as soon as the bridge I had driven over the day before. The sense of relief I felt crossing it was immense. After all, unlike many, I had a home to return to. I can’t imagine being in the same situation and knowing I left my home behind me, possibly never to return.

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