Several out-of-state National Guard units are in South Carolina to help with the response to Hurricane Florence and its aftermath, including the Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team from Pennsylvania.
“The group that I brought down are helicopter technicians,” team member Scott Grahn said. “We do the hoisting for any people that are trapped on houses or roofs or any types of trees.”
The Pennsylvania team is doing surveying and search and rescue missions across the state. They have flown over flooded areas near Sellers and Latta.
“There were some levees that were breached,” Grahn said. “We were flying over and some of the areas had flooding across roadways.”
Although he was not familiar with the geography or the rivers they were observing, Grahn said even the out-of-staters could tell the water was out of the banks.
“When you’re in the aircraft, you can see where some of the banks have overflowed. We went and checked the roadways to make sure — we have a saying, ‘Turn around don’t drown’ — and we needed to make sure the people were heeding the warning,” Grahn said.
Pennsylvania is the second-highest state for flooding deaths nationwide and Grahn said there will come a time when the South Carolina National Guard responds in kind.
“We know that we will need our brothers one day and I know that they will return the favor,” he said. “Especially the Army National Guard, we work hand in hand as a civilian to a military as well as all of our other first responders.”
Grahn has advice for the citizens of South Carolina. “Listen to their local officials and heed the warning,” he said. “When they tell you it’s safe to go back, listen to what they say. And a reminder to everyone out there: please watch the water levels in the next couple days as it may be rising and it may be falling.”
The South Carolina National Guard says 3,400 soldiers have been deployed to the areas most affected by Florence to assist with search and rescue, traffic control and supply transport.