It was a classic case of “better safe than sorry.” But it was an expensive case for South Carolina taxpayers.
South Carolina spent nearly $1 million sending 300 school buses to evacuate Charleston County residents in the days before Hurricane Matthew, according to records obtained by the Greenville News. However, very few Charleston area residents used the buses to leave town and more than 90 percent of the vehicles returned north empty.
The report notes the only time the buses were actually used was to transport residents of one nursing home to shelters outside the hurricane’s path. Some drivers waited for two days with no passengers. Nearly $955,000 were spent on fuel, food, lodging and pay for the 300 drivers. A majority of the drivers and buses were from the Greenville County School District.
Part of the issue is a rule that residents cannot be bussed out of the region unless local shelters are at least half-full. Charleston County shelters never reached that limit as many residents decided to ride out the Category One storm.
A spokeswoman for Governor Nikki Haley said the buses were sent to meet the needs expressed by Charleston County officials. However, she added the state will review its response to the storm to determine if changes need to be made for future evacuations.