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The Gills Creek area in Columbia received over 20 inches of rain during the historic October 2015 flood. As residents continue the cleanup and re-building process, many are also battling another item of concern.

Richland County Council has many important decisions to make about Flood Recovery in the coming months. Laura Hunsberger talks with Richland County Recovery Chief about the Blue Ribbon Committee, which was formed to work with the County and to help represent the community.

Temporary location of Forest Lake Fabrics, near Columbia, SC, two doors down from the original location, which is under repair.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Many small businesses were heavily damaged by the catastrophic flood that hit Columbia in October 2015.  Working through a mass of forms from insurance companies, FEMA, the Small Business Administration and others, some are beginning to dig their way out toward recovery.

  Forest Lake Fabrics is one of these.  Founded 52 years ago in the old Forest Lake Shopping Center by the grandfather of present owner Michael Marsha, it has been in its current location on Forest Drive for more than two decades.

Harper Lee being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007.
White House photo by Eric Draper via Wikimedia Commons

  With today's news of the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Harper Lee, at age 89, we offer two encore episodes of Walter Edgar's Journal, each dealing with her book To Kill a Mockingbird.

State and County Office Closings and Delayed Openings

Feb 16, 2016
South Carolina Emergency Management Division logo

  Opening of state government offices in Spartanburg County today will be delayed by two hours.

State government offices and their employees will follow the same weather hazard decisions made by the county government officials where the state office is located. For example, if county officials delay the opening or close of county government offices, that means state offices in that county will follow the same schedule.

Complete listings here.

  The National Weather Service in Columbia has issued the following Freezing Rain and Winter Weather Advisories for Sunday and Monday (see all current advisories, with details, here):

Freezing Rain Advisory

Darlington; Dillon; Marlboro,Cherokee; Greater Greenville; Greater Oconee; Greater Pickens; Spartanburg; York, Anderson, Chesterfield; Lancaster, 

Winter Weather Advisory: Greenville Mountains; Oconee Mountains; Pickens Mountains


The latest list of advisories is available here.

Robert Smalls
Mathew Brady via Wikimedia Commons

  This edition of South Carolina Focus looks at Robert Smalls, who, despite his name, was a large figure in black history in South Carolina. Born a slave in Beaufort, Smalls became a hero during the Civil War (to the Union) when he stole a Confederate ship and steamed his family and those of other slaves to freedom. Two historians tell us that after the war he returned to South Carolina where he was elected to the state legislature, and later to the United States Senate. Throughout his legislative career, Smalls had a hand in laws that improved education, advanced women’s rights and secured Parris Island as a military base, which it remains today.

Some houses in Gadsden were damaged beyond repair and are being demolished.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

[Updated 03-17-16]

Problems still linger for residents in many of the areas hit hard by October’s “thousand year flood” in South Carolina. Richland County, located in the Midlands of the state, has held a series of community input meetings in locations such as Gadsden, Eastover and the capital city of Columbia, to gather information on what needs still exist.

FEMA Disaster Assistance Interview

  The United Way maintains a one-stop phone number, 211, to help flood survivors who still have unmet needs to connect with a list of local volunteer organizations. As FEMA disaster recovery centers have closed, the local groups remain to permanently help people with relief from any emergency.

  The three remaining disaster recovery centers in South Carolina will close Friday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m.:

  • Richland County Library Southeast, 7421 Garners Ferry Road, Columbia
  • Williamsburg Recreation Center, 2084 Thurgood Marshall Highway, Kingstree
  • Central Carolina Technical College, 853 Broad St., Sumter

Many services available at disaster recovery centers are also available by calling the FEMA helpline. 

  Paleontologist Dave Cicimurri digs up fossils 34.5 million years old, not in some wilderness spot, but almost in downtown Aiken. The ancient sharks, rays, barracudas and more tell him not only that the area was once the bottom of the ocean, but the very sediment they’re buried in contains information about the environment of past eras. This information, in turn, may point to where the environment is headed in the far-flung future.

Marjory Wentworth
Andrew Allen/

  Not every state has a poet laureate, but Charleston’s Marjory Wentworth is South Carolina’s. She’s written numerous books and hundreds of poems, at various times humorous, romantic and serious. She serves not only as an advocate for the arts in the Palmetto State, but can occasionally speak for the state’s soul, as when she was called upon for a poem to mark the occasion of the slayings of the Emmanuel Nine. Her poem “Holy City” was not only featured on the front page of the Charleston Post and Courier, but the BBC recorded her reciting it, for inclusion in its covering of the story. That was a solemn occasion, but Wentworth also discusses the joy of writing, and why she can’t live without it.

The Georgetown County disaster recovery center in Georgetown County, Beck Recreation Center, 2030 West Church St., Georgetown, will close Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 6 p.m.

Many services available at disaster recovery centers are also available by calling the FEMA helpline. Survivors of Oct. 1-23 storms and flooding in Georgetown County can get help by calling 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585; those who use 711/VRS can call 800-621-3362. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

Survivors can use the helpline to:

  During the October Floods, South Carolina Public Radio reporters submitted 18 stories to NPR for broadcast nationwide. This reel contains 4 of the stories carried on NPR’s National Newscast.

  In the initial days of the October Floods, staff of South Carolina Public Radio staff worked around the clock to keep the transmitters on the air and to provide breaking news coverage with updates about the disaster. This reel contains just a few of the critical news stories provided by Anchor George Kearns during the flood and the days that followed.

    Many survivors of last month’s floods have gone through great emotional strain from dealing with the many aspects of trying to get their lives back in order. FEMA is offering counseling services at no cost to flood victims who feel overwhelmed, exhausted or unable to cope with the load. Recovery centers across the state have mental health professionals on hand or readily available to victims.

Find the closest disaster recovery center to you: (800) 621- 3362 or • Register to apply for assistance: or call (800) 621-3362 • Disaster assistance for the deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired: (800) 462-7585 (TTY).  Those who use 711/VRS, call (800) 621-3362.   The toll-free telephone numbers will operate 7 .m. – 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.  Survivors may also choose to visit a disaster recover center.  

Winter Storm Advisory

Jan 23, 2016


   The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather storm and advisory, in effect for the Upstate and Northern Midlands in South Carolina. Motorists are advised to use extreme caution on all roadways. Watch for freezing rain, ice accumulations and slow moving SCDOT maintenance vehicles. If you are involved in an accident with no injuries, South Carolina law requires a motorist to move vehicles from the roadway to avoid blocking traffic. Update will be provided as conditions change.

Click this link for the latest update from the SCEMD about county and state office delays and closings.  

Governor Haley outlines her plans to improve public education, and fight domestic violence in her annual State of the State Address.

This week Russ McKinney looks at the Governor’s sixth State of the State report to the General Assembly.

  The disaster recovery center at Irmo Library, 6251 St. Andrews Road, Columbia, will close Friday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m.             

Many services available at disaster recovery centers are also available by calling the FEMA helpline. Survivors of Oct. 1-23 storms and flooding in Lexington County can get help by calling 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585; those who use 711/VRS can call 800-621-3362. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

In the wake of the historical flood, community outreach programs are helping families get back on their feet.  The Pine Glen subdivision was hit hard by rising rain water and residents are worried they may not be able to move back in.

University of SC students clean up flood debris from Gills Creek, the location of some of the Midlands' worst flooding.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Just because some of South Carolina’s flood-ravaged roads and bridges have been re-opened and repairs to homes and businesses are in progress does not mean that little remains to be done.  A group of University of South Carolina students tackled one unmet need at Columbia’s Gills Creek the weekend prior to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

USGS water level gauge at the Gills Creek in Columbia, SC.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Of the many agencies that rushed to help victims of October’s floods, one remains largely unknown.  It’s the U.S. Geological Survey, which maintains a network of satellite-connected guages to measure the elevation of rivers and creeks statewide.   This information and more is shared with numerous agencies, and is vital to the National Weather Service, which uses it to make accurate predictions and generate flood warnings and watches when needed. 

File Photo

    As more people receive flood relief from FEMA and the Small Business Administration and few people use the agencies’ disaster recovery centers, the centers are closing around the state. This doesn’t mean that help is going away, however. FEMA spokesman Jim Homstad tells us that as recovery centers close, the task of giving assistance will be taken over by more local and community groups. Flood survivors will still have access to FEMA’s helpline, however.

State of the State address

Jan 15, 2016
Gov. Nikki Haley
Governor's Office

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will deliver her State of the State address before a joint session of the General Assembly Wednesday night. South Carolina Public Radio will provide live coverage of the address including reaction from members of the General Assembly. Coverage of the State of the State address will also feature with interviews of House and Senate members.

All Stations: Wed, Jan 20, 7 pm

The Richland County Disaster Recovery Center at the Richland Library, Main Branch, Closes Jan. 13, 2016
SC Public Radio

  As flood victims get their lives back to a semblance of normalcy and no longer utilize FEMA’s disaster recovery centers, they will close as they are no longer needed.  The Richland County Library location of the recovery center on Assembly St. in downtown Columbia will close at 6 p.m. Wednesday, January 13, 2016.  Two other centers in Richland County, and nine others around the state, will remain open until they are no longer needed.

For those registered with FEMA, help and information can still be found at the following:

  A disaster recovery center in Clarendon County will close Friday, Jan. 15, at 6 p.m.:

  • Clarendon Community Complex, 7 Maple St., Manning

Many services available at disaster recovery centers are also available by calling the FEMA helpline. Survivors of Oct. 1-23 storms and flooding in Clarendon County can get help by calling 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585; those who use 711/VRS can call 800-621-3362. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

Survivors can use the helpline to:

  Two disaster recovery centers in Orangeburg County will close Friday, Jan. 15, at 6 p.m.:

Elliot New

  For more than 20 years, Elliott and the Untouchables have been entertaining audiences throughout South Carolina and beyond with traditional and original blues music that jumps and swings.  In this edition of South Carolina Focus, Elliot New talks about his passion for this “real” music and how he writes his songs.  He also demonstrates his homemade “diddley bow,” a primitive instrument early bluesmen made from nails, baling wire and broomsticks.  Untouchables bassist J.T. Anderson also comments on what motivates his friend and fellow musician.

  After a warmer than normal December, the National Weather Service has predicted a wetter and cooler than normal winter for South Carolina.  Derrec Becker of S.C. Emergency Management Division cautions that severe weather is possible, and provides a list of simple things people can do to prepare for winter storms.