Florence City Officials: Slow return to normalcy after Hurricane Matthew

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Hurricane Matthew’s impact is being felt throughout the Pee Dee.

Florence City officials held a press conference Sunday afternoon encouraging everyone to be patient.

Hurricane Matthew left behind a trail of destruction in the heart of the Pee Dee.

City of Florence mayor Stephen Wukela says the damage from Hurricane Matthew is far beyond October’s historic flood.

“The reality is folks, we suffered a really serious weather event and in many ways this was more damage to public infrastructure than the flooding we had twelve months ago,” said Mayor Wukela.

The storm hit the Pee Dee pretty hard.  Florence City Manager Drew Griffin says the city hasn’t seen devastation like this in more than 25 years.

“This is the largest weather event that the city has experienced since Hugo. We have probably experienced more than two hundred trees down inside the city. People have lost power and internet services,” added Griffin.

As the storm passed and the skies cleared, ninety percent of homes were also left without power, according to Duke Energy Spokesperson Mindy Taylor.

“We understand many folks have been without power since early Saturday and unfortunately because of the significant damage to our system we expect for many of our customer to not have service returned for several days,” mentioned Taylor.

While crews began to pick up the remnants of what is left some people may also lose water.

City officials say they are losing nearly eight million gallons of water a day because of broken pipe lines.

“That repairing process involves cutting off  lines so that others can be repaired which means you may lose water for some period of time while those lines are being repaired” added Mayor Wukela.

Crews were out in neighborhoods Sunday afternoon restoring water and power.

City of Florence Police Chief Alan Heidler says half of his officers are on the ground manning traffic.

“Understand we’ve got more people than we normally would have in Florence on any given period so be very cautious,” said Chief Heidler.

The City of Florence Fire Department responded to 250 calls during Hurricane Matthew. City Manager Drew Griffin says that number is the amount of calls firefighters respond to in a month’s period.

With the storm gone, it’s time for the work to begin.

The Florence City Center will be closed Monday but there will be a council meeting at 1:00 p.m.