October 8, 2015

Residents along rivers in Georgetown, Charleston counties being urged to evacuate

A flooded Santee Cooper substation near Andrews (Image: Rod Stalvey/WGTN)

A flooded Santee Cooper substation near Andrews (Image: Rod Stalvey/WGTN)

Evacuations are being encouraged in parts of Charleston and Georgetown counties for those who live along creeks or rivers that could see record floodwaters migrating downstream from the Midlands.

Residents west of Charleston who live in the floodplains along the Edisto River near Jacksonboro and Adams Run, as well as those northeast of the Holy City who live along the Santee River in Germantown and South Santee, are being told to evacuate before anticipated flooding Friday morning.

Residents in the remote Berkeley County community of Jamestown were preparing for flooding on Thursday. Berkeley County Supervisor Bill Peagler said a Red Cross shelter will be opened on Friday for residents in the Jamestown area and those living along the creeks off of the Santee River, as the Santee River near Jamestown is expected to hit Major Flood Stage above 22 feet overnight Friday.

In Georgetown County,  Emergency Management Director Sam Hodge said officials are mostly concerned with the Black River, Pee Dee River, and Mingo Creek areas. “The key thing to remember is this is not a tsunami-type event,” he said in a message to residents. “There’s not a 40-foot wall of water that’s going to come through. This is a slow-rising river. So, if you live in those areas and you feel at all threatened by the flood, we ask that you evacuate.”

Residents in the Oatlands and Dunbar communities north of Georgetown itself are being urged to evacuate. However, Hodge said those evacuations do not extend to the cities of Georgetown and Pawleys Island at this time, despite some rumors to the contrary.

Gov. Nikki Haley gave a more urgent message to residents in Georgetown County, telling them to prepare for an evacuation now in case one is ordered at some point. “I know that this is your property and this is your home, but this is your life,” she said in a press conference Thursday. “And we want you to be very conscious of the fact that we are trying to save it.”

Haley warned floods could remain in the Georgetown area for “up to 12 days.”

On Wednesday, flooding along the Black River damaged homes north of Andrews. Residents in the area have already been hit by several floods in the past week, first from the outer edges of Hurricane Joaquin, then again as receding floodwaters from further upstate made their way downstream.

Rod Stalvey of Georgetown affiliate WGTN reports a Santee Cooper power substation near Andrews sustained flood damage Thursday. Stalvey also reported floodwaters had caused some grave vaults in at least one Georgetown cemetery to rise from the ground. “It looks like three or four are popping up out of the ground,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.


Ag Commissioner: South Carolina’s farms suffer $300 million in crop loss

Flooded poultry farm in Clarendon County. South Carolina Department of Agriculture photo.

Flooded poultry farm in Clarendon County. (Image: SC Dept of Agriculture)

Crops in South Carolina took a huge hit during this weekend’s unprecedented floods across the Midlands, Pee Dee, and Lowcountry, according to the state’s top agriculture official.

State Department of Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said early estimates are that direct crop losses may exceed $300 million. He added the full figure will likely not be known until the final harvests are finished.

Weathers said he toured the flooded regions by helicopter earlier this week. He said what he saw was vast devastation. “I saw farms that looked like one thousand acre lakes,” Weathers told reporters Thursday.

He said seeing the devastation was the first step in the long process of assessing the impact on agriculture in South Carolina. After completing the tour, staff from S.C. Department of Agriculture (SCDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Clemson Extension Service began initial damage assessments. They came up with the $300 million estimate.

The agriculture department said it appears that low lying farmland adjacent to rivers and creeks was most severely impacted. The crops affected include peanuts, cotton, fall vegetables, soybeans, and some timber.  “Our rural counties have been terribly impacted,” Weathers said.

Besides storm damage, there also be issues in how farm operators are able to continue working on those crops that did survive. For example, Weather said poultry farmers are working to repair access roads to get feed trucks to their flocks. Timber harvests will resume when the logging roads are passable. Long-term, the floods will cause an income loss for local farmers and rural counties.

“Our advice to our farmers is the first call to make is to your crop insurance agent,” Weathers said.


Those donating to flood victims warned to watch out for potential scams

SC National Guard troops and civilian volunteers unload water bottles for Columbia residents who haven't had safe water in nearly five days (Image: SCNG)

SC National Guard troops and civilian volunteers unload water bottles for Columbia residents who haven’t had safe water in nearly five days (Image: SCNG)

Just days after catastrophic floods, many South Carolinians are searching for ways to help victims. However, state officials are warning the would-be donors watch out for scams.

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs and Secretary of State Mark Hammond are warning donors to be on the lookout for fake charities in the coming weeks.

Here are a few tips to ensure donations get to those in need:

  • Seek out a charity that needs your support and be cautious of groups that may approach you. To get more information on a particular charity, visit the SC Secretary of State’s Office at www.sos.sc.gov or call 1-888-CHARITI (242-7484).
  • Donate to well-known charities. Watch out for charities that have sprung up overnight and do not assume a charity is legitimate based on its name.

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Noon Update: Columbia officials on water supply, ‘We will get this done’

Flooding is starting to get worse in the rural areas outside Georgetown (Image: Rod Stalvey/WGTN)

Flooding is starting to get worse in the rural areas outside Georgetown (Image: Rod Stalvey/WGTN)

Columbia public works officials sought to reassure the public Thursday that there is no danger of the city’s water supply drying up.

Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry told reporters that she wanted to dispel any rumors that a setback on Columbia Canal repairs Wednesday would drain the city’s water supply.

Columbia has had a boil water advisory in place for most of its customers since flooding knocked out much of its infrastructure on Sunday. Floodwaters also breached the Columbia Canal, which is the city’s primary drinking water source. Crews and National Guard troops attempted to build a temporary dam on the canal to keep the canal at its required depth to draw water, but that effort backfired when another section of the canal wall started to collapse Wednesday.

Gentry said, despite the setback, there is no danger of Columbia exhausting its water supply anytime soon. “Don’t think that if there’s another breach, we’re out of water,” Gentry said. “Because we’re not. Our plant is operational.”

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8PM Update: New counties added to disaster declaration, complications in Columbia Canal repairs

Workers lay rocks into the Columbia Canal on Wednesday. Work had to stop after a section of the dike (foreground, near backhoe) collapsed (Image: SC Highway Patrol)

Workers lay rocks into the Columbia Canal on Wednesday. Work had to stop after a section of the dike (foreground, near backhoe) collapsed (Image: SC Highway Patrol)

Five additional counties have now been added to a Federal Emergency Management Administration’s disaster declaration for South Carolina, bringing up to 16 the number of counties where residents can seek federal assistance.

FEMA on Wednesday amended its declaration to include Calhoun, Darlington, Florence, Kershaw, and Lee counties. Residents in those counties who suffered property loss as a result of the flooding can now seek individual assistance. That includes money for temporary rental assistance and essential home repairs for primary homes, as well as low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

The agency initially offered individual assistance in eight counties — Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland and Williamsburg — at the order of President Obama and the verbal request of Gov. Nikki Haley. Three more counties — Berkeley, Clarendon, and Sumter — were added a day later. Haley had indicated even back on Monday that she expected the number of eligible counties to grow.

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