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

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.

Narrative: "It's Like Starting All Over Again"

Oct 25, 2016
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.”

Flood Evacuee Journeys Home to Feed Cats

Oct 17, 2016
A tree in Dan Stachowiak's Backyard
Provided by Dan Stachowiak

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.

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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.

S.C. Residents Begin Clean Up In Hurricane Flooded Areas

Oct 12, 2016

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Flooding in Forest Acres, near Columbia, SC, on Oct 4, 2015.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

People and the press have referred to last year’s historic flood as a “thousand year” flood, as if an event of this size wouldn’t happen for another millennium.  Not so, say John Shelton of the U.S. Geological Survey and state climatologist Hope Mizzell.   Surprisingly, perhaps, each year the odds of a similar flood happening, though remote, are exactly the same.  Mizzell says the “thousand year” designation, however, does have a use, as a criterion for designing certain structures which must be built to withstand great and unlikely stresses. 

Residents Begin Cleanup After Hurricane Matthew

Oct 10, 2016
Streets in downtown Charleston near the Battery were flooded and strewn with debris after Hurricane Matthew.
Alexandra Olgin/SC Public Radio

I trudged through knee high murky brown water to get to Amy Knoch house in Pepperhill a neighborhood in North Charleston, about 20 miles inland.

“My house had about 14 and change inches of water in it,” She said.

Knoch was standing, staring at her home in shock. Almost exactly one year after her house was destroyed by flooding the first time.

Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio
Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio

Rafting Creek is a quiet stream that winds behind a cemetery, under a road, then through the woods - it's idyllic. But when rain began last year during the historic flood, the Sumter waterway started to fill up. As the storm continued, the area began to flood, sweeping diagonally over the cemetery, road, and woods themselves. The ground under the cemetery became saturated; the pressure of it caused the caskets to pop out of graves. Three thousand-pound vaults with coffins inside were carried several hundred feet into the woods across the road.

Hundreds of volunteers with the nonprofit Eight Days of Hope were expected in Williamsburg and Georgetown Counties Saturday. The group was scheduled to start rebuilding 150 homes damaged in last year’s flood. President Stephen Tybor is now asking some of those volunteers to delay their arrival.

"We ask those volunteers that are going to come in tomorrow on Saturday, to delay that arrival to Sunday Afternoon."

Tybor said teams that are already in the area will temporarily shift their focus to post-storm cleanup.

Only days after the flood, Columbia's Gills Creek was approaching normal level, but its rage left its marks, both on the vegetation pictured here, and on its many victims.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Rain can be a painful reminder to some people of the great losses suffered a year ago in South Carolina’s historic floods.  According to USC School of Social Work Assistant Professor Patrice Penney, the anniversary of a traumatic event such as the floods can cause fear, anxiety and other symptoms in survivors. And psychologist Richard Kagan tells us that these renewed feelings at the anniversary are perfectly normal behavior, but  William Wells of the S.C. Dept.

"Resumption," A Musical Interpretation of the Flood

Oct 3, 2016
Recording "Resumption" at South Carolina Public Radio.
AT Shire/SC Public Radio

Resumption is a violin, drums, and piano composition inspired by the flood in South Carolina last year. The trio attempts to capture the musical personality of the storm from early rain to recovery using the diverse expression of our instruments.

DNR: White Shrimp Season As High As Predicted

Sep 30, 2016
Alexandra Olgin

The spring 2016 white roe shrimp season in South Carolina was the best in 37 years. The state natural resources department reports catches of shrimp at testing sites in August were more 200 percent higher than the decade average.

In April, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources marine scientist Steve Arnott attributed the projected successful season to weather conditions. He said the influx of freshwater from 2015 flooding moved many of the crustaceans out of the marshes and into the waters where the shrimp boats are.

Low Prices Make Flood Recovery Tough For Farmers

Sep 30, 2016
Alexandra Olgin

Farmer Jamie Burgess has a lot riding on this harvest.

“Corn so far is doing good,” he said from the drivers seat of his combine. “If we can just get a good price we’ll be all right.”  

Last year, most of Burgess’ crops were drowned by record rainfall. The South Carolina agriculture department estimates farmers lost 75 percent of the money they were expecting to make off of crops in 2015.  

Alexandra Olgin

The future of a South Carolina hospital damaged by water a year ago is uncertain. The Williamsburg Regional Hospital in Kingstree was damaged by heavy rains last October and it  is still waiting to hear if it will get funding to repair or build a new facility.

Louise Welch-Williams (center), the Regional CEO for the Red Cross in South Carolina at work in Southern Louisiana. Welch-Williams was one of more than 50 Red Crossers who travelled to Louisiana to help after the August floods.
Courtesy of the American Red Cross

    In August, the state of Louisiana experienced catastrophic flooding in one of the worst natural disasters since Hurricane Sandy. Residents of South Carolina could certainly relate to the images of houses under water and people being rescued by boat, as South Carolina is still recovering from last fall’s historic floods. Having gone through something similar, many people in the state want to help in some way.

  In 2015, Tomeka Frazier and her young son were living with her former foster mother and searching for affordable housing of their own. Then the October flood came, and housing became intensely competitive as displaced flood victims searched for a place to stay. On top of losing most of their belongings in the flood, the Fraziers were forced to leave the city of Columbia to find somewhere to live. Tomeka describes her fight to find stability for her and her son after the flood as a disabled single parent.

Elevated House
Thelisha Eaddy / SC Public Radio

September 20 was the deadline for counties to submit their proposed flood recovery action plans to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). With plans submitted, Lexington County anticipates its plan to be approved. The 55-page plan calls for 61.2% of its $16.332 million dollars of Community Development Block Grant- Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Funds on home buy-outs.

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

Update: Due to Hurricane Matthew, the SC Flood Strong 5K has been rescheduled for December 10, 2016.

Ryan Plexico used to stop by his parents’ home every day to go for a run in their neighborhood. When his parents lost their home in the October floods, Ryan found a way to give back through running.

Roads Still Closed Nearly A Year After Dams Failed

Sep 21, 2016
Alexandra Olgin

Fragments of black asphalt lay in the bottom of a collapsed two-lane road in Calhoun County. Part of Church Camp Road buckled after the dam underneath it failed during heavy rains last October. It has been closed since, which state Representative Russell Ott says is too long.

“In a years’ time a decision can be made. It’s a tough decision to have to make and I don’t envy that decision but at the same time it is still one that has to be made,” he said.

 

How Four Individuals Became 'Water Heroes'

Sep 19, 2016
The view just outside of the Columbia Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant during October's flood.
David Wiman

South Carolina's largest wastewater treatment plant had spent a week preparing for a hurricane in early October last year. The rain started, winds were blowing, but instead of a hurricane, South Carolina got a flood -- the worst it's seen in years. Cooper McKim reports how four individuals stayed behind to keep the plant running.

Maegan Latham assists with community cleanup efforts after Columbia was flooded last October. Here, she takes a wooden cross to her neighbors houses to be signed.
Courtesy Julie Latham

  Last October, the Latham family’s home was devastatingly damaged by Columbia’s massive flood. During several long months of repair, Davis and Maegan Latham struggled to keep up with the demands of high school while living in “less than ideal” circumstances, displaced from their home at an inconvenient distance. In the process, the two siblings learned lessons about resilience and carrying on in the midst of unfortunate events.

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