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Thousands of people in and around the city of Georgetown, South Carolina, were bracing on Monday for severe flooding from two rain-gorged rivers as a result of the long-departed Hurricane Florence, and officials were urging residents to evacuate.
Floodwaters of 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 m) are expected to inundate Georgetown and surrounding communities this week as the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers overrun their banks along the low-lying tidal flats where they converge at Winyah Bay, which flows into the Atlantic.
Emergency management officials began sending recorded telephone messages to residents in harm's way over the weekend, and will probably start going door-to-door in the next few days, Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach-Akers said.
County officials on Monday said they planned to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. (1900 GMT) to update residents on the status of the rivers and possible evacuation plans.
The potential flood zone encompasses some 3,500 homes in Georgetown and the coastal resort community of Pawleys Island, Broach-Akers told Reuters.
She said the estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people who live in the area are being "strongly urged" to leave on their own, although no mandatory evacuation has been ordered.
The county opened emergency shelters at 7 a.m. on Monday, and hotels outside the flood zone in nearby Myrtle Beach are offering discounts for evacuees. Public schools will be closed until further notice, Broach-Akers said. First responders from around the state were assisting in relief efforts. State transportation crews were working to erect temporary dams on either side of U.S. Highway 17, the main coastal route through the area, and National Guard engineers were installing a floating bridge at Georgetown in case the highway is washed out at the river.
"The water is still rising there," said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center.
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