South Carolina Focus

SC Focus is a regular feature of South Carolina Public Radio.  As its name suggests, the segment focuses on the Palmetto State and its people.  It covers a wide variety of subjects, from South Carolina's war veterans to scientists, musicians and other topics, both serious and whimsical.  SC Focus is can be heard at various times throughout the week during our news program on all South Carolina Public Radio stations.

Ways to Connect

V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3 Aerial View, Jan. 2017.
SCANA

This week’s momentous decision by South Carolina Electric and Gas Company and Santee Cooper to abandon a project to build two, new nuclear reactors after spending billions of dollars, could cause economic and political ramifications for the state that could last years.

It is believed that the final price tag for the project could have ended end up being $25 Billion. It’s original projected cost was $10 Billion. 

The path of the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse.
scemd.org/TotalEclipse

With more than one million visitors expected in South Carolina for the total solar eclipse, representatives from state agencies urged residents to plan ahead.

“Wherever you want to be when this event occurs, don’t be on the road. Don’t be rushing,” said Major General Robert Livingston with the state’s Adjutant Generals office. “It’s going to be a historical event, treat it like that.”

USC Library Shines Light on Eclipses in Literature

Aug 3, 2017
Astronomy text from the Robert Arial collection, image for personal research use only.
Makayla Gay

Columbia is preparing for an estimated million visitors to come this month to witness a total solar eclipse, a scientific phenomenon that inspires awe and wonder in those who view it. The world goes dark in daytime as the moon completely covers the sun. Imagine what it must have been like for people in the past who didn’t necessarily understand what was happening.

On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will be seen along a roughly 70-mile wide path through South Carolina from the Upstate through Greenville and Columbia to Charleston.
NASA/Hinode/XRT, via Wikimedia Commons

This summer’s total solar eclipse is a rare event for the Palmetto State.  Normally a total eclipse doesn’t return to the same spot for close to 400 years, but this will be the second in only 47 years for the folks in Sumter and the surrounding area.  Hap Griffin remembers seeing the last eclipse as an 11-year-old on March 7, 1970.  He said he still recalls how "blown away" he was in the backyard of a friend.   Nearby, the Rev. Joel Osborne climbed a forest tower to take in the awesome celestial  event, and it was a push along his spiritual journey, he said.

Many businesses in Nichols remain closed, nine months after Hurricane Matthew caused massive flooding in the area.
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

When rising river waters inundated the small town of Nichols, donated funds from all over the country also came flooding in. With the help of a recovery steering committee, the town is using the funds to help its residents recovery through two programs: the Owner-Occupied Housing Rehabilitation Grant Program and the Unmet Needs Assistance Program.

The two programs were created by Rita Pratte, SBP Disaster Recovery Advisor to the town. “I am working with the steering committee, helping them make decisions on how to spend their funds."

Columbia Rock-n-Roll Camp Puts Girls in the Spotlight

Jul 25, 2017
Girls Rock Columbia Founder and Executive Director, Mollie Williamson
Laura Hunsberger/SC Public Radio

With participants across the country and world, the Girls Rock Camp Alliance is made up of organizations that hold annual camps to empower girls through rock music. In each week-long day camp, kids are assigned a musical instrument: bass, electric guitar, drums, key board, or vocals. Many campers have never picked up a musical instrument before. Mollie Williamson is the founder and executive director of Girls Rock Columbia. This will be Williamson's last camp as she steps down as executive director to pursue her Master's degree out of state.

The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office logo.
SCDRO

Nearly two years after the historic October 2015 storm, many low-income homeowners are finally receiving assistance to repair their flood-damaged homes with the help of The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office, or SCDRO. SCDRO announced in a press release last week that it closed its application intake period for the October 2015 Severe Storm Program at the end of April—capping off at 3,755 completed applications—and has moved forward with home repairs and replacements for eligible applicants. 

Derek W. Black on the Tavis Smiley Show in 2016.
Courtesy PBS/Tavis Smiley Show

In many schools across the nation in the last few decades, concerns over discipline have led to so-called “zero tolerance” policies.  USC law Professor Derek Black says suspension and expulsion rates have doubled under zero tolerance policies in the past 30 years.  Texas educator Dr. Nesa Sasser Hartford believes that the policies are justified in three specific areas – drugs, guns and sexual improprieties.

Inspecting the new troops at Fort Jackson.  They learn the rules quickly- or they'll hear about it.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Fort Jackson has just celebrated its centennial and, as the nation’s largest army training base, new recruits pour in regularly for basic training.  Though they’re met their first day by a pack of screaming drill sergeants, privates Jose Solis and Wallace Castillo don’t mind.  They’ve come for a purpose: to be trained and to learn to be professionals.   They view the sergeants’ yelling as part of the system, and don’t take it personally.  That’s good, says Drill Sergeant Queshawnia Franklin, because that’s how the system is designed, and after the first few weeks have provided the recruits

Reconstruction-era photo of African Americans
www.nps.gov/reer

The National Park Service (NPS) wants to hear from residents concerning the upcoming Reconstruction Era National Monument in Beaufort County. The week of July 24, NPS will hold three public listening sessions as part of the development of a foundation document for the new park.

Melissa English- Rias is acting Superintendent of the Reconstruction Era National Monument. She talks with SC Public Radio about the purpose of the sessions and how information from each session will help create the historic monument.

Listening Sessions

Monday, July 24, 2017

From Russia to the US and Back, a Mother and Daughter's Journey in Dance

Jul 21, 2017
Irina Ushakova at the Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville.
Makayla Gay / South Carolina Public Radio

At the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, Irina Ushakova teaches ballet and pointe. A native of Russia, Irina says she’s definitely different from most American teachers. Irina’s strict teaching style is influenced by her training in Russia at the Perm State Ballet School. She now calls South Carolina home, but her daughter decided to follow in her footsteps by training in Russia. South Carolina Public Radio's Laura Hunsberger has more.

HLD Lowers Steam Generator into Containment at SCE&G's VCS Unit 2, Jan 10, 2017.
SCE&G

The saga of the problem plagued V.C. Summer nuclear project continues, but its’ future will be determined by some critical decisions expected to be made over the next several months.

Two new Westinghouse reactors are under construction by SCE&G and state-owned utility Santee Cooper at SCE&G’s Summer plant some 25 miles north of Columbia in Fairfield County.

Heather and Dave Mann, now on dry land, with Dinghy the Sailing Cat.
Haley Kellner/SC Public Radio

Not many people would sell their homes to go sailing up and down the east coast of the United States and into the Caribbean for six years.  But Heather and Dave Mann, late of Wisconsin and now of Summerville, did just that.   Dave says they did it for the adventure, and they had plenty of those, which Heather recorded in a book about the lessons she learned from the ocean during their voyage aboard their sailboat, the Wild Hair. 

SC Safe Home Director Ann Roberson distributes information on storm readiness at the Bluffton Storm Ready Expo
Haley Kellner/SC Public Radio

Many homeowners near South Carolina’s coast were left to deal with significant property damage in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Now, early in 2017’s hurricane season, which began in June and runs through November, there are options for coastal South Carolinians who want to prepare for storm damage. One of them is the South Carolina Safe Home Program, a grant program operated by the South Carolina Department of Insurance to help offset the cost of home alterations that mitigate storm-related damages.

Nonprofit PASOs Provides Resources for State’s Underserved Latino Population

Jul 11, 2017
Ana Cossio and Julie Smithwick at PASOs' office in Columbia, SC
Haley Kellner / South Carolina Public Radio

PASOs is a nonprofit that provides resources for the Latino community to take steps towards a healthier population. Here, South Carolina Public Radio’s Laura Hunsberger talks with the Executive Director, Julie Smithwick, and the Midland’s Director, Ana Cossio, about the organizations return to their primary mission.

Confederate flag supporters walk through a group of protestors in front the South Carolina Statehouse.
Laura Hunsberger/SC Public Radio

On July 10, 2015, officials removed the Confederate flag that flew on the statehouse grounds. Today, the South Carolina Secessionist Party assembled in front of the capitol building to raise the flag again for a day, with a crowd of about 50 supporters. Nearby, a dozen or so protestors held a counter rally. South Carolina Public Radio's Laura Hunsberger has more on the story.

Kudzu failed to deliver on its promise as erosion control, but spread so fast it has become an icon of the South.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

A familiar sight on Southern country roads, and sometimes in towns, is kudzu.  The ubiquitous and fast-growing vine was imported from Asia as a decorative plant in the late 19th century, and promoted during the 1930s and 40s as forage for livestock and control for erosion.  According to Clemson Extension agent Dr. Tim Davis, it didn’t quite work out that way.  The plant, which can grow up to a foot a day, spread rapidly throughout the South.  But Davis and Dr.

A rolling course is rehearsed by a media member and coach, heading for the finish line at the Rock Hill BMX track.
Haley Kellner/SC Public Radio

The city of Rock Hill is becoming famous for its amateur sports facilities in everything from soccer to motocross and more.   The last week of July will see the city host the BMX (bicycle motocross) world championships, and riders from Australia to France to Brazil will come to South Carolina  to add an expected $13 million to the local economy.   Prior to that event, however, the city held race for the press to let members of the fourth estate get a feel for what goes into this growing sport. 

A generic smartphone.
skeeze/Pixabay

Last week’s daring escape by an inmate at a maximum security state prison has brought the issue of prisoners having smuggled cell phones behind bars to the forefront.

Authorities say that 46 year old Jimmy Causey, who was serving a life sentence for kidnapping, used contraband cell phones to aid in his escape from Lieber Correctional Center near Ridgeville in Dorchester County.

Officials say cellphones allow easy ways for prisoners to stay in touch with the outside world, and can even allow them to continue to be involved in criminal activities.

Inside a girls bedroom suite at Palmetto Place Shelter
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

In the past year, 628 young people received some type of service available to the homeless. That’s according to the United Way of the Midlands. The organization manages the homeless management database for the community (the bed reservation system and client management system its housing and service providers use). All of those 628 individuals were between the ages of 17 and 24. For the past three years, the United Way has operated a Youth in Transition program to better serve this demographic. United Way’s Sr.

Focus Group in Columbia Brings Partners in Flood Recovery Together

Jul 7, 2017
Participants in the focus group held at St. Mark United Methodist Church in Columbia brainstorm how to reach volunteers for the ongoing flood recovery efforts.
Laura Hunsberger / South Carolina Public Radio

At St. Mark United Methodist Church in Columbia, organizations and state agencies met for a focus group last month to share their systems for finding volunteers to work in the ongoing disaster recovery. Bryant Archie was one of the participants in the focus group. As an AmeriCorps Volunteer, he serves as a Client Services Coordinator for SBP, one of the disaster relief organizations at work in the state. Archie says he wanted to get involved with disaster recovery because for him, the 2015 floods hit very close to home.

From space, a hurricane can appear as a beautiful cloud pattern. (Photo of Hurricane Isabel)
Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center, via Wikimedia Commons

The National Hurricane Center has predicted between 11 and 17 named tropical storms for this year, with 5 to 9 becoming hurricanes and 2 to 4 becoming major hurricanes of category 3 or above.  Meteorologist Mark Malsick of the State Climatology Office says the main thing storms need to get bigger and stronger is warm, shallow water.  

Tens of thousands of purple martins return to Bomb Island at dusk.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Purple martins have roosted on Bomb Island in Lake Murray every summer for decades to prepare for their annual migration to South America. Numbering at least in the tens of thousands, if not more, the birds gather at dusk in great clouds around the island as they return from a day’s hunting for beetles, dragonflies and other high-flying insects.  To naturalist Rudy Mancke, the birds are a wonder of nature. More than that, people have gathered around the island in boats each summer for years, and the phenomenon of this huge mass of birds has become a tourist attraction.

Close-up of gas nozzle refueling car.
Andreas [CC0 1.0] via Pixabay

As drivers in the state gas-up for the Fourth of July holiday, they’ll find the lowest gas prices in the nation.  Six cents lower than at this time last year according to AAA motor club.

That’s good news for South Carolina motorists because the state tax on gas goes up two cents a gallon on July 1st.  It’s the first of two cent per gallon tax hikes we’ll see for the next six years to pay for millions of dollars to improve state roads which were again this week described as the deadliest in the nation.

Hundreds of Williamsburg County seniors during Senior Market Day in Kingstree to receive vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables from certified farmers.
Haley Kellner & Makayla Gay/ SC Public Radio

The deadline is fast- approaching for a health center in Williamsburg County to collect information from survivors of the October 2015 flood. Hope Health and the American Red Cross are looking for people in the area who are experiencing specific complications from mold. The information they collect will help residents get the medical care they need and potentially lead to more resources to help them fully recover the historic event.

When the deadline for the survey passes, many flood victims would have been living with mold for more than one year and eight months.

Industrial robots on an automobile assembly line.
ISAPUT [CC BY-SA 4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 Automation has been increasing in the Palmetto State’s factories for a long time, bringing with it fears of job losses for people whose jobs are vulnerable to being replaced by machines.  But Roger Varin of Staubli Robotics, which makes robots for industry, says jobs are changing, but not necessarily vanishing.  In fact, he asserts, automation creates jobs in some areas.  Peter Brews, dean of USC’s Moore School of Business, agreed.  He said what must happen to assure employment in the future is that workers must have better education and training to fill the more technically-oriented jobs

Troubles caused by the historic flood of October 2015 were accompanied by one tiny bright spot: the flood temporarily refilled the state's groundwater supplies, which had been in decline through years of drought since the 1990s.
Courtesy of Nichols resident Courtney Wilds

For many who experienced the destruction of South Carolina’s October 2015 flood, it’s perhaps difficult to imagine that the state was plagued by a drought prior to the historic rain event. Despite the monumental devastation wrought by the flood, hydrologists who study the state’s aquifers, or the state’s usable groundwater resources, have observed a faint silver lining.

SC Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer stand on stage speaking into a microphone, welcoming the crowd.
Haley Kellner/SC Public Radio

On Saturday, June 10, a bustling crowd of Beaufort County homeowners and their families assembled under a tent outside the Home Depot in Bluffton for the city’s second annual Storm Ready Expo. Hosted by the South Carolina Department of Insurance, the Expo was intended to encourage inclement weather preparedness at the beginning of hurricane season, which began June 1 and continues through the end of November.

Evacuation Route image
DHEC

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an above-normal hurricane season with 11 to 17 named storms. Five to nine of those STORMS could potentially become hurricanes. During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, less than 200 people used the state’s special medial-needs shelters. Officials with the state’s department of health and environmental control, (DHEC) are now working to learn more about the medical needs of coastal residents to better help them prepare for the next major storm.

Dr. Hossein Haj-Hariri, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computing at the University of South Carolina.
USC College of Engineering and Computing

Technology Giant Siemens Corporation announced recently a technology grant worth nearly $630 million to the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing. Officials say the grant provides computers, robotics, and software licensing as well as hardware to develop a “digital factory innovation lab” where students will model and test systems they may work on in the future. USC President Harris Pastides says students will graduate prepared for the high-tech jobs in the worldwide economy.

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