South Carolina: Flood and Recovery

  Stories of people and communities going about the work of recovery from the floods of 2015.

Credit Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

In October of 2015, South Carolina received rainfall in unprecedented amounts over just a few days time. By the time the rain began to slacken, the National Weather Service reported that the event had dumped more than two feet of water on the state. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the subsequent flooding was the worst in 75 years.

SC Public Radio Flood Coverage from the Beginning

Ways to Connect

Guy Dozier had to use a kayak to get out of his house when it flooded in October 2016.
Alexandra Olgin/SC Public Radio

Guy Dozier thought he had planned for the worst when he built his two story home 30 years ago. Just a twenty minute drive from Myrtle Beach, his home in Conway is elevated five feet above ground, higher than any anticipated flooding. That is until Hurricane Matthew late last year.

"It was just one more dirty stinky nasty mess," Dozier said.

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.

Dr. Nori Warren loves caring for pets at 4 Paws Animal Clinic. Forced to relocate by the historic flood of 2015, she hopes to return to a new building near the original clinic later this year.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

After the historic flood of October 2015 destroyed the 4 Paws Animal Clinic in the Columbia suburb of Forest Acres, a friend came to the rescue with a temporary site for the business.  Dr. Nori Warren and her husband, Will, immediately began planning to a return to their original building, which was still structurally sound. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Living area inside new manufactured home
South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office

In less than one month, almost 800 individual cases for South Carolina’s  October 2015 Storm Recovery Program have been started.  The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office (SCDRO) manages the program and is very close to placing some storm victims in new homes.

Harriet Mealing is planning to move into a house soon, but is waiting until she has the financial ability to furnish it with appliances.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Harriet Mealing's trailer home was severely damaged by the flood. Ceilings caved in, holes opened in the floor and mold and mildew ruined most of Harriet's belongings. She sought help from a myriad of flood recovery organizations, but received very little assistance, and she received no financial support from FEMA. Over a year later, Harriet is still living in the same situation, resigned to Clorox her home every week to keep the mold at bay. 

Tammy Moshier stands in her living room with nametags she made for the guests of her "Gratitude Party." Each one bears a description of what the wearer did to help her and her daughter during their struggle with the flood.
Courtesy of Laura Moshier

Tammy Moshier and her twelve-year-old daughter, Laura, were flooded out of their home near Gill's Creek in October 2015. Because their home was elevated six feet, they had assumed they would be safe from flooding, but they were wrong. It was a stranger that escorted the mother-daughter pair from their front porch and carried Laura through shoulder-deep water. They never knew his name.

Counselors from Carolina United have worked  with thousands of flood victims in the past year, including this one in Eastover, S.C.
Courtesy Carolina United, SC Dept. of Mental Health

More than a year after South Carolina’s historic flood, crisis counselors from the state Department of Mental Health’s Carolina United program continue to find and help flood victims.  But hearing the woes of thousands of victims over a long period can have detrimental effects on the counselors as well, sometimes producing stress or depression. 

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.

Peanuts fill tractor trailer containers at PeeDee Peanut buying station in Marion County
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

In September of this year, farmers across the state, who suffered losses during the October 2015 flood and who were approved for the Farm Aid Grant, started receiving checks in the mail. But less than a month later, some of those same farmers were once again assessing damage to their farms, this time from Hurricane Matthew.  South Carolina Public Radio’s Thelisha Eaddy reports on how back-to-back natural disasters are impacting local farmers.

Mobile Intake Center Schedule For January 2017

Nov 2, 2016

The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office (SCDRO) mobile intake centers accept individual applications for housing recovery related to the October 2015 storm. The mobile offices serve three counties a day for one week. Intake Centers alternate locations each week to reach citizens around the state more effectively.

RELATED CONTENT: Intake Deadline Nears for 2015 Flood Recovery

The dam (foreground) of Lexington's Old Mill Pond gave way during the flood of October 2015, leaving an empty pond behind it and destruction in front.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Broken dams across the state made last year’s historic floods in South Carolina even worse.  In Lexington, three dams burst, washing debris through the city and flooding U.S. Highway 1.  The city is now seeking to reconstruct the old dams to be more resilient. Tut Underwood has the story.

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

It has been over a year since the great floods of October 2015, but many people are still working toward a full recovery. Homes are being rebuilt and St. Vincent de Paul of South Carolina has hundreds of families qualified and waiting for furniture. After providing furniture for more than 100 families, the official House in a Box program is ending in South Carolina. House in a Box was the only program in the state providing new furniture for flood-affected residents.

Margaret and Harry Plexico spent months trying to clean up and salvage their flooded home before decided to start over elsewhere.
Ryan Plexico

Margaret and Harry Plexico were away celebrating their anniversary the weekend of October 4th, 2016. They couple celebrated 36 years of marriage in Charleston. When they returned to their home in Irmo, they found it ravaged by flood. With no flood insurance, the Plexicos made the difficult choice to build a new home elsewhere, using their retirement savings to do so. Both Margaret and Harry had just retired.

Seven-Foot translucent fabric woven by Susan Lenz
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

When the flood hit South Carolina in October of last year, Cindi Boiter felt helpless to the devastation around her. Talking with her artist friends, she realized they had an itch to respond to the storm somehow. An idea came to her: an art exhibition on the anniversary of the flood. "You can record data, say how much water we had, but there are sensations of experiencing this that there are almost not words for," says Boiter. Cooper McKim reports.

Greenville County Lets The Floodplains Flood

Oct 20, 2016
Cooper McKim

The light brown wooden wall cabinets, drawers, stove and oven in the kitchen at the Greenville County building are hand-me-downs. The kitchen supplies came from homes the county bought and then demolished.

“If we bought a house and there is something in there that we paid for that can be used and recycled then let's do it.” Assistant County Administrator Paula Gucker said. “Because then I don't have to go out and buy cabinets or countertops.”

Bucksport, South Carolina - A busy spot on the Intracoastal Waterway/Waccamaw River in spring and fall, when boating snowbirds are moving north and south.
Pollinator

Hurricane Matthew has come and gone, but major threats still remain. Waterways in North and South Carolina are quickly rising due to the Hurricane's torrential rains.  North Carolina has already seen devastating effects and now, South Carolina is starting to feel the impact. Five counties are seeing major flooding, with many communities encouraging their residents to evacuate. Dan Stachowiak is an evacuee from Conway. Cooper McKim follows Stachowiak on his journey through floodwaters to feed his cats.

Members of the Forest Acres Community gather at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Columbia for an Interfaith Service of Remembrance.
Laura Hunsberger

On the anniversary of last October's historic floods, the sanctuary of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church was full of people gathered for an interfaith service of remembrance. Leaders from 10 churches and synagogues took part, offering prayers, songs, and words of encouragement. The event honored First Responders from Forest Acres, Richland County, and the City of Columbia, along with community members touched by the disaster. South Carolina Public Radio’s Laura Hunsberger has the story.

More on this story...

One SC Fund Expands to Help Hurricane Matthew Victims

Oct 13, 2016
Thelisha Eaddy / SC Public Radio

The One SC Fund was created after the October 2015 rain event and flood and has distributed $2 million dollars to nonprofits to help residents rebuild and recovery from that historic event. Governor Haley said the fund will now expand to help victims of Hurricane Matthew.

“What we’ve found very, very helpful was we started the One SC Fund last year, and what that did was allowed neighbors to help neighbors, businesses who wanted to contribute to the state to help those in need,” Haley said.

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