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During a 2016 town hall meeting, Williamsburg County residents learn about the state's flood recovery program. Officials report the program is on track to help 1500 households.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

When the state’s 2015 flood recovery program was created, Program Director, retired Army Col. J.R. Sanderson knew $96 million dollars was not going to be enough money to recovery every resident who would have remaining unmet needs. SC Public Radio spoke with Col. Sanderson about how the new program is helping residents in 22 counties and what options will be left to those who the program cannot help.

“We’re at a point now in the program where I think we can show some substantial growth,” Col. Sanderson said. “I would say that right now, we feel good about where we’re at.”

From left to right: Suzanne Snyder, Stacy Massard, Carmen Bowie
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

Eighteen months after the devastating flood in October of 2015, three women from Columbia and Lexington are still not home. Stacy Massard, Carmen Bowie, and Suzanne Snyder continue struggling in the aftermath of the storm. They agree friends and family just don't get it; they're grateful for the bond between fellow flood victims.

Cayce Boat Landing Re-opens after 2015 Flood Damage

Mar 28, 2017
Thomas H. Newman Boat Landing
Josh Floyd/SC Public Radio

The only boat landing in Cayce is finally re-opening, after being closed since the devastating flood in October of 2015. The Congaree River mangled and disconnected portions the Thomas H. Newman Boat Landing, rendering it unusable. Mayor Elise Parton says she's been waiting for this day a long time -- she received many calls from locals asking when it would finally open back up.

A row of recovered cannonballs in the Charleston Museum
Alexandra Olgin/SC Public Radio

Live cannonballs from more than 200 years ago continue to be found in Charleston. The relics from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars occasionally wash up on beaches or are found underground. While some are inactive hunks of metal, others could still explode.

In an empty field near Charleston, military bomb experts are getting ready to detonate a rusted cannonball from the 1800's. The ordinance is buried underground and wrapped in C-4. An expert yells, "Fire in the hole!" as an explosion rips through the air.

For the past two years, South Carolina has suffered back-to-back disasters. The thousand year flood in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 damaged homes, took lives, and crippled businesses. One of the businesses hit the hardest by these events was farming. For farmers, the setbacks from the storms were massive. Federal Recovery Programs offered little help and insurance didn’t completely cover damages. Only what is harvested can be insured, so when disasters two years in a row lead to low yields for farmers, the insurance just wasn’t going to cut it.

Richland County Flood Recovery on Track

Mar 21, 2017
Richland County Farmland flooding in 2015
Provided by Michael King

The Red Cross and National Guard may no longer be on the streets of Richland County, but that doesn't mean recovery from the devastating 2015 flood is over. In fact, hundreds of people are still out of their homes in the county according to Mike King, Richland County's Long-Term Disaster Recovery Chief. He says there’s been a lot of progress in recovery, but there's still a long way to go.  

Scientists Seek To Learn More About Sharks

Mar 17, 2017
OCEARCH researcher tagging the male white shark Hilton
Provided by OCEARCH

Off the coast of Hilton Head Island, the M/V OCEARCH sits stationary ready to catch sharks from twelve inches to twelve feet. The vessel is a temporary laboratory for scientists conducting research on the fish, from the way they see color to their mating habits. OCEARCH has done expeditions around the world, though this is the first time the organization has worked off the South Carolina or Georgia coast. They were pulled here by shark activity.

Beached vessel at Woods Bridge Marina
Provided by County of Beaufort

Beaufort County officials are planning to begin removing abandoned boats and dock fragments from its shores this week. A storm surge caused by Hurricane Matthew left a substantial amount of debris in several locations around the county.

Beaufort County Deputy Administrator Josh Gruber said, “It looks like a number of the boats and large pieces of the dock[s] were washed up into the marsh."

Hearts and Hands Disaster Recovery staff join Keoashaws Brewer and her family for a ribbon cutting ceremony as part of their "Welcome Home" celebration.
Laura Hunsberger/SC Public Radio

Update

Laura Hunsberger recently spoke with Marilyn Gray, Midlands District Chair of the St. Vincent de Paul South Carolina Disaster Relief Program, and Dr. Lisabeth Medlock, Founder and Director of the Palmetto Project Community Flood Hub. Over the past year, Hunsberger has been following their work to provide furniture to families affected by the 2015 floods. In this interview, Gray and Medlock explain how their organizations, along with other community partners, developed a streamlined furniture distribution program.

Industrial Hemp Seen as a Potential Boon to Farmers

Mar 7, 2017
Sign at the end of the road near the Baxley's farm
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

On a 5000-acre farm in Marion County, the Baxley family grows corn, soybeans, tobacco, and peanuts. In the past few years, intense storms have ruined their harvesting season, denying the family much needed revenue.  Neal Baxley, who manages the farm with his dad, is interested in planting a new crop, one that's more flexible, resilient, and profitable. For Baxley, hemp is the answer. The only problem is hemp isn't legal to produce in South Carolina. Cooper McKim reports that the state is one of many currently trying to legalize hemp production this year.

Megan Doty (left), 628th Security Forces Squadron unit program coordinator, files out her travel voucher with Senior Airman James Hauck, 628th Comptroller Squadron financial technician.
Airman 1st Class Thomas T. Charlton

Last October, Hurricane Matthew brought considerable devastation to South Carolina in the form of strong winds and crippling floods. For the military men and women stationed at Joint Base Charleston, this created unique issues. They needed to safely evacuate the military base while also providing help to those in worse conditions. The decision was made to have air force members by-pass emergency shelters and instead find alternative living accommodations, like family, friends, or even hotels.

The telephone intake center at SC Legal Service in Columbia. On average, the law firm receives 25,000 calls a a year from low-income residents in need of legal assistance.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

Months after the historic 2015 flood, Rhonda Simpkins turned on her furnace and watched green mold cover her home. Denials from FEMA, SBA and her homeowner's insurance led her to South Carolina Legal Services. The nonprofit law firm was able to help Simpkins and others. Now, potential budget cuts in Washington has the firm concerned the work it provides, to help the state's most vulnerable residents recover from disasters and navigate the legal system, could also be cut.

Mullins Residents Face Flooding Two Years in a Row

Mar 1, 2017
Mullins resident Barbara Sellers stands in an apartment being renovated again after Hurricane Matthew flooded the area in October 2016.
Josh Floyd/SC Public Radio

About a year ago, I met Barbara Sellers, a resident of the Genesis II apartment complex in Mullins, SC. Genesis II is a community for low-income seniors, subsidized the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In November of 2015, while the area was still saturated from October’s floods, a severe storm inundated Barbara’s home. Barbara and her neighbors were evacuated by boat, and their apartments had to be completely renovated.

Rainfall from Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 flooded the street and homes in the Pepperhill neighborhood.
Alexandra Olgin/SC Public Radio

Amy Knoch recently moved back into her house. When I visited, she was weaving through a maze of Rubbermaid bins that were stacked in her living room. .

Knoch lifted the lid of one box full of office supplies and the next her child’s toys.

“It’s like an organized version of a hoarder’s house,” she said. “Everything is in bins based on what room it came out of but you have pathways between all of the rooms.”  

She and her family lived in an apartment for three months after flooding from Hurricane Matthew damaged her home.  

International Non-Profit Lends a Hand Close to Home

Feb 16, 2017
A tap stand being set up in Columbia.
Jennie Reeb/Water Mission

Water Mission is a non-profit based in Charleston focused on helping developing nations restore access to clean water, particularly following natural disasters. The group has projects around the world including Peru, Indonesia, and Kenya. In 2015, they used their purifying technology to help a city closer to home: Columbia. Cooper McKim has the story.

By the Numbers: Table shows progress of the state's 2015 flood recovery program to date
SCDRO

As of January 31, the South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office has awarded 44 award letters to households with damage from the 2015 rain event and flood. To date, the office has allocated a little over $1.4 million of its nearly $97 million of disaster recovery funds.

Households in Florence, Georgetown, Sumter, Williamsburg, Berkeley, Clarendon and Orangeburg counties now have information letting them know they have been accepted into the states disaster recovery program.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin: State of City is Strong

Feb 1, 2017
During his State of the City Address, Tuesday, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin used the Virtual Inter-Columbia Intelligence (technology acquired from the Department of Defense surplus program) to highlight the city's strengths.
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

During his annual city address, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said the state of the city is strong. Using technology acquired from the Defense Department's Surplus program, Mayor Benjamin highlighted the city's 3.8% unemployment, the creation of nearly 10,000 jobs within the past year and progress in continuing recovery efforts following the 2015 flood.

One SC Fund Announces Phase Five of Grant Awards

Jan 31, 2017
In October 2016, Bank of America Employees volunteered with United Way of Midlands, Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity and Home Works of America to repair siding on a flood-damaged home in Columbia.
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

Eight nonprofit organizations will receive $380,000 to continue recovery work for damages caused by the 2015 flood as well as Hurricane Matthew. Grant money will help organizations purchase building materials, do general rebuild work, mold remediation and supply home furnishings. South Carolina Public Radio spoke with Jim Powell, Director of Development for Home Works of America, and learned how this round of funding will allow the organization to continue to help the most vulnerable in the Charleston area.

Edisto Beach Begins Project to Replenish Sand

Jan 31, 2017
Alexandra Olgin\South Carolina Public Radio

Bulldozers on Edisto beach move and shape sand that is being pumped onto beach. The dark watery mixture is spewing out of a series of connected metal pipes that go more than a mile out in the Atlantic Ocean. Those pipes lead to a dredge – the large machine stirring up the sand on the bottom of the ocean Thomas Payne, with Marinex Construction explains.

Payne is managing part of the beach renourishment project. He says the man operating the dredge will start by pumping water through the pipes.

SC residents from Darlington, Dillon, Florence and Marion Counties attend Team SC PeeDee Day in October 2016 to get information about disaster recovery following Hurricane Matthew.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

In three months, the South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office (SCDRO) will close its mobile and fixed intake centers. To date, SCDRO has taken over 2,000 cases of people who still have unmet needs following the 2015 flood. South Carolina Public Radio learns, as this deadline draws near, the intake process for a program to help Hurricane Matthew victims is also approaching.

Recovery for Some South Carolina Farmers from 2015 Flood Is On-Going

Jan 24, 2017
Joe Jones tends his sheep, turkeys and chickens on his Blythewood farm.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Some farmers are just beginning to shake off the effects of the historic flood of October 2015, though others will take longer to come back.  One of those recovering is Eric McClam of City Roots, an urban farm in Columbia.  Because the farm is divided into two locations, one plot  was able to escape heavy damages and continue operating to help lift up the damaged second property. 

Irmo Resident Karen Elliot cuts a ribbon to welcome neighbors, rebuild volunteers and friends into her repaired home.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

In the span of 24 hours, two survivors of the 2015 flood celebrated rebuild milestones. Both residents entered the United Way of the Midlands 2-1-1 disaster case management intake system and both were contacted by rebuild organizations. 15 months after the flood, returning home has become a reality.

When Karen Albert cut the the ceremonial ribbon to mark the completion of repairs to her flood-damaged home, she acknowledged the possible sever between her and the volunteers with Reach Global Crisis Response.

Josh Floyd / SC Public Radio

Hurricane Matthew brought considerable damage and devastation across the east coast, but it’s hard to find a town affected more than Nichols, South Carolina. A month after the storm, debris was piled up so high along the roads that it was like driving through a tunnel. Today, nearly three months after the storm hit, most of that debris is gone, but the damage can still be seen. Every house has damage and there’s not a single citizen in sight. The town feels empty, but it’s not abandoned. If you find someone to talk to, there’s a smile on their face.

Fort Jackson VolunTEENS Serve in the Midlands

Dec 19, 2016
Mary Reardon

VolunTEENS is school-year programs connecting students with the Red Cross. Based in the Fort Jackson community, the group promotes the Red Cross mission through service projects, such as supporting the South Carolina Special Olympics, public education initiatives about health or fire safety, and disaster recovery. For example, their November event was to help the Red Cross clean, inspect, and pack away the cots used in the shelters during Hurricane Matthew. After the October floods in 2015, the VolunTEENS came out for multiple days of service in the Midlands.

Josh Floyd / SC Public Radio

It’s been two months since Hurricane Matthew devastated cities across the east coast. In Lumberton, North Carolina, a Robeson County town hit especially hard by the storm, people are still seeking relief aid. Many families are still displaced from their homes, but many more are starting the steps to rebuild. That’s where the Robeson Church and Community Center comes in. Outside the building, a line of people await any help they can get. Inside, the center and the Red Cross have joined forces to offer any help they can give.

Illumineer worker installs Christmas lights on home of Columbia flood victim
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

Nonprofits working in the Midlands of South Carolina are hoping Christmas lights will shine focus on flood recovery. They also hope charitable giving will boost donations during the gift-giving season. 14 months after the flood, South Carolina Public Radio talks with two homeowners, celebrating the holidays on opposite sides of recovery.

A Lot to Celebrate This Christmas

When Highfill assisted in volunteer efforts to aid flood recovery in rural Williamsburg county, he and other volunteers coordinated with county officials to provide water, food, and sanitation kits to flood victims.
Credit: Charles Highfill.

Charles Highfill has long been an avid HAM radio operator, and has assisted in volunteer emergency weather response in that role for many years. During the flood of October 2015, Charles assisted in water rescues and in communicating road safety conditions to state agencies. Several weeks after the flood, he helped to coordinate assistance for flood victims in rural Williamsburg County. Ironically, Charles himself has received little help since his home was condemned due to flood damage.

Cherryvale Community Center
Josh Floyd/SC Public Radio

On an overcast day in Sumter County, there’s a community center with a huge RV parked outside.  FEMA is stenciled across the front of the vehicle and wires hanging out the back are snaking their way inside.  The RV provides internet and phone service to the Cherryvale Community Center ,where FEMA has set up their short term Mobile Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). It’s one of the last recovery center’s open in the state before Hurricane Matthew flood victims can no longer apply for FEMA grants or low-interest loans.

Soldiers from Fort Jackson lead City of Columbia’s Veterans Day Parade. Over the past two years, the area has seen a 14% decline in homelessness. According to the United Way, Veterans typically make up 15-17% of that population.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

The October 2015 flood created new cases of homelessness in the Midlands of South Carolina. But despite that increase, the United Way of the Midlands has been able to shrink the number of homeless cases. This accomplishment, in part, is because of a national program called Built For Zero.

Built for Zero is coordinated by Community Solutions, the national effort supports participants in developing real time data on homelessness, optimizing local housing resources, tracking progress against monthly goals, and accelerating the spread of proven strategies.

Inside the Marion County Administrative Office.
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

At the end of a busy strip mall, a line is weaving out the door. The Marion County Administrative Office is home to "Team South Carolina" -- a one-day event striving to connect local flood victims with recovery services. More than ten agencies, government and non-profit are organized at the back offering forms, brochures, and advice. Many here are from Nichols, one of the hardest hit towns by the flood that followed Hurricane Matthew. For most, it's the first step towards long-term recovery.  Cooper McKim has the story.

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