SC News

News from and about the Palmetto State.

Bill Stangler
Bill Stangler

Since October's historic flood last year, there have been twenty sewage spills, overflows, or line breaks that released over 10,000 gallons of raw or under-treated sewage in Columbia. Those numbers were reported by the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control.  Columbia has dealt with sewage overflows for decades, as many other cities with outdated collection systems have, but October's historic flood shined a light on the continuous problem.

More Hands Needed To Rebuild Flood-Damaged Homes

Jul 26, 2016
voluteer messages on studs
Thelisha Eaddy / SC Public Radio

Currently through the Midlands Flood Recovery Group, 16 rebuild projects are happening in Richland and Lexington Counties. The breakdown of that is: three in the City of Columbia, six in Richland County, and seven in Lexington County. This adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction work being done to flood-damaged homes at little to no cost to the homeowners. Volunteers working with nonprofits are getting the work done, but organizations say more hands are needed to continue the work.

Repair crews at work on the SC 9 Bridge over the Broad River.  Work on a new bridge is scheduled to begin in 2017.
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

Construction crews are busy with repairs to the bridge where SC Highway 9 crosses the Broad River between Chester and Union counties at the Town of Lockhart. The crumbling condition of the 70 year old bridge puts a new spotlight on the poor condition of the state’s roads and bridges. The state Department of Transportation (DOT) will soon have funding for a new SC 9 bridge thanks to the state legislature which authorized a $4 Billion dollar, ten year roads spending plan during this year’s legislative session.

The Forest Acres Police Department was damaged in October's historic flood.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  Not only were police in the Columbia suburb of Forest Acres helping the public with traffic detours and inundated autos and businesses after the historic flood of Oct. 4, 2015, they were dealing with their own flooded headquarters. In this story, we talk with Police Chief Gene Sealy and City Manager Mark Williams about the city’s hopes to move the police station, which was contaminated with sewage as part of the storm, to a new location out of the flood plain. Just some of the considerations include finding funding and land to build on.

Alexandra Olgin

Beaten Path Lane looks like a typical suburban neighborhood street. Houses with square green lawns and large oak trees line the street. But upon closer inspection one realizes the James Island development is missing curbs, sidewalks and gutters. Instead civil engineer Joshua Robinson says there are native juncus grass, cypress trees, beautyberry plants, frogs and dragonflies – all things you would find in a marsh.

Robinson designed this neighborhood a few years ago.

Roger Gilbertson
Roger Gilbertson

At the start of July, applications officially opened for the state Farm Aid program.  Farmers are now able to fill out their losses and submit them to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture for a limited reimbursement of their lost income from October's historic flood.  But, the process is confusing. Training workshops are being held around the state to help farmers better understand the process. Cooper McKim talks to farmers and experts about it.

Eight Days of Hope Press Conference
Thelisha Eaddy / SC Public Radio

VOADS (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) are conducting numerous rebuilding projects throughout South Carolina’s 24, flood-impacted, disaster-declared counties. Mississippi-based nonprofit Eight Days of Hope recently announced plans to help the Palmetto state rebuild. The organization will bring thousands of volunteers to Georgetown and Williamsburg Counties to repair over 200 homes.

Falls Park in downtown Greenville, SC. The city's next planned revitalization project is another “world-class” park along the Reedy River.
James Willamor/Flickr

  A recent report in the Wall Street Journal made the case that the major beneficiary of the expansion of the Panama Canal and the expected boom in imports and exports through the port in Charleston, could actually be South Carolina’s Upstate region, and its thriving manufacturing industry.

No one will be keeping an eye on projected growth in the Upstate more than the leaders of the City of Greenville.

  As society becomes more dependent on technology, from smart phones to driverless cars, the need for security has grown, and not just for financial institutions. The University of South Carolina and Gov. Nikki Haley recently announced the formation of SC Cyber, a coalition of educators, industry and government designed to protect information and anticipate the problems posed by new uses of technology.

SC Aquarium Joins Effort To Prepare For Sea Level Rise

Jul 19, 2016
Alexandra Olgin

Standing in front of a 15,000 gallon floor to ceiling fish tank inside the South Carolina Aquarium, President and CEO Kevin Mills pulls out a tape measure. He stretches it just over his head to the six foot mark. That is how much scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict the waters could rise in the next century.

“No one or nothing will escape from the effects of sea level rise,” he said.

Mills announced Thursday the aquarium is embarking on a three year project to educate and prepare the region for the rising waters.

Matt Brodie

A Half-Marathon and 5K race took place last weekend at Harbison State Forest to re-ignite support for victims in October's historic flood.  Race2Rebuild (R2R) sponsored the race in addition to organizing a rebuilding event the previous day.  Around twenty-five R2R runners participated and many volunteered as well at the rebuilding sites in Columbia.  Cooper McKim speaks with volunteers, partners, and leaders from Race2Rebuild about why their mission and how they ended up in  South Carolina.

HHDR Prepares For Increase in Flood Recovery Cases

Jul 14, 2016
Flood victims talk with HHDR case managers
Thelisha Eaddy / SC Public Radio

At the end of June, Hearts and Hands Disaster Recovery (HHDR), the nonprofit in charge of long-term, disaster case management services following October’s flood, had over 2300 open cases. The nonprofit is connecting with more flood survivors during community outreach events. Executive Director Falon Alo said as more communities learn about HHDR services, she expects the number of open cases to grow tremendously.

Much Of South Carolina Now In Drought

Jul 12, 2016
Courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Nine months after October’s historic floods, parts of South Carolina are in a drought. The state Drought Response Committee designated most of the central, south and western counties in threat of a drought Friday. Four counties in the Northwestern part of the state are much drier and are considered in moderate drought. Dennis Chastain from Pickens has been on this committee for 14 years.  

“I don’t think I have ever seen a drought cycle develop and deteriorate as quickly as this has,” he said. “Pastures are not just dry, they are scorched. The grass actually looks dead.”

Rescued By Jon Boat, One Family Tries to Return to Normal

Jul 12, 2016
Julie (left) and her children, Megan (center) and Davis (right), sit down to talk about the morning they were rescued from their home.
Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio

There was a before and an after. On the evening of October 3rd, 2015, Julie Latham thought the rain would be like the hundreds she’s experienced. To be safe, the family moved to the second story of their home, and brought snacks to eat in case the power went out. By 4:30 a.m. the following morning, the backyard was inundated.

On a cloudless summer afternoon, Julie Latham and her children, Davis and Megan, are glad to be sitting in the living room. One month earlier, contractors were putting up the last of the new drywall and trim. Today, they share their story.  

Flooded home

During a recent flood-recovery update press conference, Governor Nikki Haley stated the flood created 741 million dollars in housing losses. Nine months after October’s flood, many South Carolinians have yet to move back into their homes. United Way of the Midlands Senior Director Jennifer Moore shares how nonprofits and volunteers are working to help flood victims recover.

State Troopers removing the Confederate battle flag from display on the grounds of the South Carolina State House, July 10, 2015.

  One year ago, on July 10, 2015 the confederate flag was lowered from its place of honor in front of the Statehouse in Columbia signaling the end of a contentious period of state history. Over fifty years of contention to be exact.

New Temporary Hospital To Be Built In Williamsburg

Jul 7, 2016
A model of what the temporary hospital in Kingstree, South Carolina will look like.
Courtesy of Williamsburg Regional Hospital

Williamsburg County is getting a temporary hospital. The modular building is scheduled to be completed and ready to serve patients by the end of September. The Williamsburg Regional Hospital closed its doors six months ago, after flooding damaged more than half the building.

Ever since the closure, hospital CEO Sharon Poston has been working to get a temporary hospital up and running.

“To be able to provide direly needed medical services to our community is everything for us.  The absence of full service medical attention has been extremely detrimental,” she said.

Terry Davis and the summer interns at the SC Film Institute.
Cooper McKim

In residential Columbia, a small business is finally back on its feet after eight months in hiatus. The South Carolina Film Institute is now located in a brown home filled with lighting equipment, cameras, and painted chairs in their interview space.  October's historic flood devastated their previous office with four feet of water, destroying the property and most everything inside. Cooper McKim speaks with the co-founder, Terry Davis, about how they recovered.

Smart, Post-Flood Rebuilding Pt. 2

Jul 7, 2016
Construction is underway at Elementary School 20 in Richland County. This retention pond is one of several designed to control stormwater runoff before, during, and after construction is complete.
Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio

Last October, a school was under construction in northeast Columbia. They weren’t expecting a massive flood, but it didn’t end up destroying their hard work. And that’s thanks to new construction techniques. While in the past, a flood like this would’ve destroyed their work, nowadays, they have methods to make use of the water.

Gov. Haley Press Conference June 30

Jul 1, 2016
Gov. Haley, South Carolina Floods
Governor's Office

Governor Nikki Haley held a press conference Thursday saying she did not want to wait until the anniversary of October’s historic flood in which 19 people died and caused more than $1 billion in damage to talk about recent progress in relief efforts. 

Haley spoke about the financial losses affecting individuals, businesses, and communities, and also addressed public infrastructure needs in the wake of the flood. 

Richland Co. Public Library

Eight months ago, employees and staff at three Richland County Public Library locations were about to embark on a unique, three-month experience. Thelisha Eaddy talks with Executive Director Melanie Huggins, Community Relations Coordinator Tamara King, and Social Work Outreach Program Coordinator Lee Patterson about how the library’s role during the initial recovery phase from October’s flood influenced long term library services.

Richland County Public Library Executive Director Melanie Huggins said libraries across the country have always responded to crisis and disaster.

Construction workers elevate a house on Lake Katherine in Columbia that was heavily damaged in October’s flood.(File photo)
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Eight months after hurricane Joaquin dumped more than 24 inches of rain on South Carolina, homeowners are still in the process of rebuilding. For homeowners in a flood plain, it means elevating their home or demolishing it. South Carolina Public Radio reached out to Ali Khan, the flood plain manager for the City of Columbia in Richland County, to help explain what new National Flood Insurance Program regulations mean for residents located within the city limits.

An aerial view taken from a Coast Guard helicopter showing the continuing effects of flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin in areas surrounding Charleston, S.C., Oct. 5, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann

    The week after October's devastating flood, state offices were closed. "Not so much here at the Department of Insurance," says Director Ray Farmer.  He says employees came in and helped hundreds of flood victims file their insurance claims.  A few months later, the department received over 40,000 claims related to the flood - helping people across the state begin their recovery. Cooper McKim speaks with DOI Director Ray Farmer about the importance of insurance after October's storm and how to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.

  Many people are fearful of a Zika virus epidemic because of the publicity the virus has received.  But South Carolina law enforcement officers are fighting a much-less-publicized epidemic – the growth of heroin addiction.  This problem, however, is largely rampant among middle class users, according to Frank Shaheen, director of the Recovering Professional Program.  

A South Carolina Dept. of Transportation crew reopens the Drawdebil Road bridge in Lexington County.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Eight months after October's flood, 94 percent of the state’s roads and bridges have been repaired.  Of the 541 originally damaged, less than 35 now remain to be fixed.  Several were just re-opened in Richland and Lexington Counties in recent weeks, though Department of Transportation Chief Engineer of Operations of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Andy Leaphart is clear that there are more counties affected: "we have closures in Clarendon, Williamsburg still, Newberry county still has some, so we're working all across the state.

The berms in the picture above stand almost 30 ft. at points, and disconnect the creek from its historic flood plain. Ordinarily, water would break the bank and go into the flood plain. In its current form, water is forced down the channel where it picks
Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio

In northeast Columbia, a stream is no longer doing what it should be. Years of development have transformed Little Jackson Creek from a meandering stream to a channelized chute disconnected from its historic flood plain. Richland County is in the process of restoring the creek and ten acres of surrounding wetlands. Once complete, the project will contribute to flood abatement and improve water quality.

Alexandra Olgin

A large metal claw clamps down on a 45 foot high 15 year old pine tree and severs it at the stump.

The man operating the large green piece of equipment, called a feller buncher is part of Donnie Lambert’s logging crew.

“I got five machines out here,” he said.

Lambert’s crew is cutting down trees on this 300 acre plot of land north of Summerville. The feller buncher moves down a dirt path surrounded by loblolly pine trees. With the scent of freshly cut pine, it smells like Christmas.  

A white-tailed stag; the white-tailed deer is the only type of deer present in South Carolina.
Henry Mulligan

In 2015, hunters killed 7,922 deer less than the year before.  The deer season fell short for several reasons -- from August to December, South Carolina saw flooding, unseasonably warm temperatures, season closings, and inaccessible roads. Cooper McKim speaks with experts to learn what made 2015's deer season so unique.

Richland County Council unanimously approved its Blue Ribbon Committee’s recommendation to proceed with full applications of 17 flood recovery and mitigation projects. The projects are eligible for funding through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).

The projects range from dam armoring to culvert improvements to the buyout of homes and businesses. Only the pre-applications for these projects have been approved. Now with Council’s, permission, full applications will be filed with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) and FEMA.

Classes have resumed at the Pavlovich School of Ballet after October’s flood nearly destroyed the building.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

On October 3, 2015, the Pavlovich Ballet School in Columbia was enjoying its newly-renovated facility, including state-of-the-art sound equipment and a new dance floor completed just two months earlier.  The next day owner Radenko Pavlovich watched eight feet of water send the piano floating through the studio, destroying it and everything else. On the first of April, the dance studio finally re-opened. Tut Underwood reports on its process of recovery.