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Flooding from Hurricane Irma near Charleston Harbor
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season comes to a close this week, officially ending November 30.  It was one of the most active and costliest to hit the United States, with 17 named storms and 10 hurricanes, six of which were major with winds of 110 milers per hour or more.  With such monster storms as Harvey, Irma and Maria, many are still struggling physically and mentally in the  aftermath.  The Medical University  of South Carolina in Charleston is now researching the impact of those hurricanes on mental health as it develops a new smart phone app.

Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia commemorated his city's commitment to the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign in May.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio.

Since President Trump announced the U.S. would exit the Paris Climate Agreement back in June, redoubled support for the agreement has come from the local level, with mayors from around the nation pledging their cities' support for the Agreement.

Lou Alice James is the 200th homeowner to receive assistance from the Midlands Flood Recovery Group. Here, she clings to the one family heirloom that survived the mold, a crystal candlestick.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Early this month, South Carolina reached the 2-year anniversary of the devastating October 2015 rain event, offering a natural opportunity to pause and observe the many tragedies that the widespread flooding wrought, and the many triumphs of recovery that have followed. The Midlands Flood Recovery Group, for its part, celebrated a significant milestone in its flood recovery narrative this month: the 200th home repaired by the group and the gift of a restored home for one resilient flood survivor.

Retired Army Major Miguel Santana stands in front of his home in Columbia. Santana says he is a victim of contractor fraud and it's stalling his flood recovery.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio.

Since 2005, the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) has received over 70,000 complaints from 50 states, 6 territories, and 4 countries involving over 50 natural and man-made disasters. Retired Army Major Miguel Santana says after the October 2015 flood, he became a victim of contractor fraud. His costly mistake is stalling recovery for what was to be his retirement home.

Another Nichols family returns to a repaired home
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

About 75 families have returned to repaired homes in Nichols, South Carolina. The small town in Marion County was home to 260 homes before Hurricane Matthew brought strong winds and devastating floods in 2016.  All but three sustained flood damage and most businesses were also impacted.  South Carolina Public Radio spoke with Mayor Lawson Battle and Disaster Recovery Advisor Rita Pratte about progress in recovery, one year after Matthew.

Instructors and presenters from Richland County's Flood Ready Seniors event. From left to right: Ben Marosites, Natasha Lemon, Winta Adams, and Sharon Long.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

If the past two years have taught South Carolinians anything, it’s that disasters are never out of the question, especially during hurricane season. County officials across the state have placed emphasis throughout 2017’s hurricane season on preparing the public for weather-related emergencies, putting their experience responding to the historic flood of 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 to good use.

Faces of Recovery: For the past two years, South Carolina Public Radio has shared the stories of survival and recovery from the Oct. 2015 flood.
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

Two years ago, Mary Burch watched and prayed as heavy rains caused the underneath of her family home to flood and eventually rot. Months later, the 77-year- old Sellers resident was living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions as mold started to grow and the structure of her homw was compromised from the flood. The week of the two-year anniversary of the October 2015 flood, Burch was able to walk through her near-finished new home. 

Clemson researchers are studying the role wetlands have in exporting carbon during floods and severe weather events. Shown here are wetlands of the Hobcaw Barony, home to Clemson's Belle W. Baruch Institute.
Dr. Bob Pohlad of Ferrum College via Flickr

It's no secret that access to drinking water can be limited during severe weather events. But what about the days and weeks that follow? According to research from Clemson's Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, water can still be unsafe weeks after residents' access to water has been restored.

Gov. McMaster holds press conference about Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sep 6, 2017. McMaster declared a state of emergency for South Carolina.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio.

Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency in South Carolina to help prepare for a possible strike early next week from Hurricane Irma.

During a press conference Wednesday, McMaster stressed the declaration is a precaution and not an evacuation order. But he also urged residents to get ready for the possibility of Irma impacting the state.

"Pretend that a category three hurricane is arriving tomorrow morning, and do what you would do then, now."

Listen to the Complete Press Conference:

Georgetown Family Gets New Home Following 2015 Floods

Sep 6, 2017

The Bennett family is a tight knit group, but far from  small. There are 9 children, 6 women and 3 men.  Even those  who've  been around the family  long enough are considered kin.  All affectionately call 97 year-old Louise Chandler Bennett, "Momma" and are thankful for her new home.  Momma  just received the first so called, "stick built home" in the state,  following the 2015 floods.

Residents in Nichols, SC are rescued by boat after Hurricane Matthew in 2016
Courtesty of Nichols resident Courtney Wilds

The first 72 hours after a disaster are critical. The Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA) website reminds that electricity, gas, water and telephones may not be working and that public safety services such as police and fire departments may not be able to reach you immediately during a serious crisis.

The agency recommends individuals should be prepared to be self-sufficient (able to live without running water, electricity and/or gas, and telephones) for at least three days following a disaster.

This sign, erected by Clemson's Belle W. Baruch Institute, marks a plot that was originally a research environment for trees affected by Hurricane Hugo. In October 2016 the plot was affected by Hurricane Matthew as well.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

The Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown, South Carolina is a rare place. Situated between the Winyah Bay estuary and the Atlantic Ocean, the property contains both freshwater habitats and salt marshes, interspersed with loblolly and longleaf pine forests. The variable ecosystems that Hobcaw supports make it the ideal site for university research centers such as Clemson University’s Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science.

Columbia Canal Rebuild Could Be Years Away

Aug 29, 2017
View of the Columbia Canal from Riverfront Park
Laura Hunsberger

During the 2015 floods, the Columbia Canal breached at the Congaree River. It took the National Guard and a team of engineers days to build a temporary dam and secure the city’s water supply. In the months that followed, the City of Columbia began considering how to rebuild the canal and make improvements, a process that is still ongoing.

Lexington County Flood-damged home being rebuilt to new elevation guidelines
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated an additional $5 million to Lexington County REBOUND (REBuilding Our Neighborhoods after Disaster), the County's Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery program (CDBG-DR). REBOUND is designed to address the unmet needs of people whose property sustained damage during the October 2015.

"Some of the remaining flood issues are just those homes," said County spokesperson Harrison Cahill. "We still have some people who are out of their homes."

From left to right: Dr. Clayton Copeland, Dr. Robert Dawson and Dr. David Leach.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

At the University of South Carolina, three faculty researchers have formed an unexpected research partnership in response to the Thousand-Year-Flood. Soon after the historic October 2015 rain event, a Dr. Clayton Copeland of the School of Library Science approached two of her colleagues from the School of Medicine’s Rehabilitation Counseling Program and proposed a joint study of disabled individuals’ experiences in relation to the flood.

Hurricane Matthew cuased major flooding in Nichols, SC in October 2016.
Courtesty of Nichols resident Courtney Wilds

The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office will begin accepting applications for citizens affected by Hurricane Matthew at mobile office locations. The applications are for a housing recovery program that will concentrate on the repair and/or replacement of homes based on eligibility and priority need. 

The first mobile locations will locate in Dillion and Walterboro August 12, 14 and 15. Other locations are: Loris, Gresham, Nichols, Sellers, Kingstree, Beaufort and Mullins.

Hurricane Matthew Mobile Intake Office Schedule

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."

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Last month, Richland County began accepting applications for the Returning Home program, which will use funds from the CDBGR-DR (Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery) to assist residents who lost their homes in the 2015 Floods. The county is accepting applications through June 15 (or until they receive 600 applications). To assist residents in completing the application, four community meetings are scheduled in June.

Parking Outside Richland County Administration Building May 15.
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

Day two of intakes for Richland County’s homeowner flood recovery program brought in almost half the number of registrations that county will accept. Around Midday Tuesday, the county had accepted ‘just shy of 300” registrations, that’s according to Public Information Coordinator Natasha Lemon.

The county was expecting a large influx of residents on day one of intakes. South Carolina Public Radio spoke with the County’s long-term disaster recovery director Mike King at Noon; he said there was more of a steady stream.

Josh Floyd

On May 8th and 9th, the Columbia Metropolitan Airport housed a two day training exercise to test emergency preparedness and response. The event was organized by the South Carolina Forestry Commission with the National Disaster Medical System. The exercise involved a mock disaster which would require people to be flown in for distribution to area medical facilities for further treatment. After facing two consecutive years of natural disasters, the 1,000-year flood in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, it’s important for South Carolina to be prepared for whatever event might come next.

Sumter Fire Department Reopens Flooded Training Facility

May 11, 2017
Sumter Fire Department Reopens Flooded Training Facility
Sumter Fire Dept. Facebook Page

It's been 19 months since the October 2015 flood. During this time, the Sumter Fire Department has held classroom training exercises in a portable acquired from the local school district. The classrooms in the department's training facility took on over 20 inches of water and sustained $500,000 in damages. The department recently celebrated the reopening of the facility. Battalion Chief Joey Duggan said it's a mixture of old and new that will better serve the area. South Carolina Public Radio's Thelisha Eaddy reports.

Residents affected by the historic October 2015 floods are encouraged to attend one of six public meetings Richland County will hold May 1 - May 11. Residents will receive information about housing rehabilitation and mobile home replacement assistance during this series of community meetings, which are being held in advance of the registration intake process scheduled to begin May 15. Click here for more information and a list of meetings.

Two portable buildings, previously used as office space, are being used as classrooms for Harmony School's preschool and kindergarten program.
Laura Hunsberger

As the end of the 2016-17 school year approaches, South Carolina Public Radio's Laura Hunsberger visited Harmony School in Forest Acres to find out how they are doing, now more than a year and a half after damage from the historic floods closed their preschool building.

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.

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