COLUMBIA, S.C. – Gov. Nikki Haley says South Carolina is actually dealing with two natural disasters, not one, after Matthew. “What we are finding out now is not only did we just deal with a hurricane but we are now dealing with a flood, and as the rivers start to flow, what we are seeing are things like what’s happening in Marion County, where we’re seeing them four feet underwater and expect those things to continue over the next one to two weeks.”
The Department of Natural Resources says the Little Pee Dee River won’t crest for another 24 to 48 hours, while the Waccamaw River won’t crest for another 7 to 10 days. The governor says at least with the flooding event the state has a good idea of where the flooding will happen and roughly when so it can pre-position equipment and supplies.
As for the state’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Matthew, there were about 285,000 people without power Tuesday afternoon, down from a high of more than 800,000 after the hurricane. 17 shelters are still open with 708 people in them, down from 78 shelters with 6,733 people.
However the SCDOT says there are more roads closed Tuesday than there were Monday, most of them in the flooded Pee Dee. DOT Secretary Christy Hall says 434 roads and bridges are closed. 315 of them are secondary roads, while 27 are bridges. She says they have found three bridges with damage so far.
The number of dams breached has risen to 13, up from 7 on Monday.
“When it comes to fatalities, we are holding at three fatalities right now and praying that’s all that we see as we go forward,” Gov. Haley says.
The state Emergency Management Division is able to handle two disasters at once because of improvements over the years. Kim Stenson has worked at EMD for almost 19 years, the last three as director. He says one big way he’s seen the agency change is in the professionalism of its people. “Today, you’ve got colleges and universities offering degrees in emergency management, when they didn’t do that even, probably, 10 or 15 years ago,” he says.
He says the state’s emergency plans are much more detailed than they were in past decades, and the agency’s training exercises are much more comprehensive and detailed as well. On top of that, the agency has had plenty of experience handling the real thing.
“The winter storm that we had in 2014 and then last year’s flood, it gives you a chance to really work those systems, and, quite frankly, you cannot really replicate what’s going to go on in reality setting up an exercise. It helps, but to actually use those systems and move forward in that direction makes a tremendous amount of difference,” he says.