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.
Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance Tuesday by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov. The lines will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET seven days a week.
Complications have halted badly-needed repairs to a canal that is critical for Columbia’s water supply. Crews with the National Guard and the city’s utility department spent Tuesday and much of Wednesday trying to stop a breach in the dike that holds back the canal. Since the canal is Columbia’s primary water source, the city’s utility director Joey Jaco has said it must maintain a 20-foot depth in order for water to flow into the system. The breach has lowered the water well below that.
The National Guard has been flying in sandbags via helicopter to reduce the amount of water funneling through the breach. Meanwhile, another crew dropped hundreds of rocks further up the canal to act as a temporary dam. The dam was supposed to keep the canal at its 20-foot minimum.
However, the plan backfired when the strong force of redirected war began eroding away the dike opposite the unfinished dam. The canal had not breached in the second location as of Wednesday evening, but crews are afraid further work could worsen that unintended consequence.
In the meantime, the city is urging its customers to conserve water as its intake system becomes strained. All residents on the system have already been under a boil water advisory for four days and city leaders said 10,000 customers still did not have running water by Wednesday afternoon.
Richland County authorities have identified two men who died after their truck plummeted off a washed-out roadway and into a swamp.
Both 58-year-old Robert Vance of Kentucky and 53-year-old Ricky McDonald of Ohio were contract employees who had been doing repair work on damaged rail lines nearby. Three other men in the truck were able to get to safety after the crash, but could not find McDonald and Vance. Dive crews found both bodies around midday Wednesday.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said the men had driven around a barricade that indicated the road was closed due to flood conditions. The crash also happened while a curfew had been in effect prohibiting most drivers from being on Richland County roads in the darkness Wednesday morning.
17 deaths have now been blamed on the storm and its aftereffects in South Carolina . All have involved people who either died in a road collision or after their vehicle became flooded.
Yet another small dam has failed in eastern Richland County, bringing the total to 7 across the county and 13 statewide. The dam held back Ulmers Pond southeast of Columbia. The dam, like many of the others that failed in the aftermath of record flood levels across the Midlands, is a small earthen structure located in a residential area.
Unlike some other breaches, there were no vulnerable homes downstream and Richland County authorities did not order an evacuation. Meanwhile, deputies had started the evacuation process at the Beaver Dam Road dam in northeast Columbia when word came down Wednesday morning that the dam had been stabilized.
Gov. Haley told reporters Wednesday that the Department of Health and Environmental Control is monitoring 62 dams across the state.
The city of Florence is also enduring problems with its water system. In this case, the city announced weather damage had caused more than 56,000 gallons of raw sewage to spill into a creek in South Florence. The city said a force main had split under pressure, and was allowing sewage to be discharged to a drainage swale while an upstream lift station was pumping. It took repair crews about nine hours to repair the damage and stop the leak into nearby Jeffries Creek.
The creek eventually feeds into the Pee Dee River. The city said water samples did not indicate unsafe levels of sewage or bacteria.