Mac Stone Conway

Planning for the New Normal (2018)

Image Credit: Mac Stone

CONWAY, SC (July 9, 2019)—This September the scenic Waccamaw River crested at more than 20 feet, flooding the city of Conway, South Carolina. The flood, caused by Hurricane Florence, garnered national attention, as the normally placid Waccamaw, which winds its way through Conway on its way to the Atlantic Ocean, left destruction and devastation in its path.     

For the 17,000 residents of Conway, these “historic” weather events are, sadly, becoming the new normal. Occurring more frequently — and with greater intensity — the floods are permanently altering the way of life in Conway and surrounding communities. Even before Florence hit the region, devastating floods in 2015 and 2016 resulted in more than $1 million in damage to city property alone. 

Recognizing this new reality, community leaders are taking steps to better prepare for the future. For long term-solutions, Conway is turning to land conservation and to the Open Space Institute.

Paddlers On Waccamaw Christine Ellis Photo Credit
Paddlers enjoy the Waccamaw River.
Image Credit: Christine Ellis

Coupled with sustainable city planning, improved and updated building codes, and other measures, land protection will form a critical part of the solution to safeguarding Conway.

“Especially during times of extreme weather, protecting wetlands and floodplains is an effective way to buffer communities,” says Whitehead. “Land is an extremely important, but often underappreciated, tool in the effort to the curb the effects of climate change. While people generally recognize the value of land conservation for clean water, habitat, and recreation, it’s gratifying that folks are grasping other values of protected land.”

Hurricane Florence has spurred the conservation community and local communities into thinking more broadly about land — as one of the most effective ways to absorb excess water.

Next Story From the Field

Conservation with a Local Touch (2018)

The Citizen Action Program allows OSI to reach diverse audiences who are passionate about conservation. The program leaves a positive and lasting mark at the community level.