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County surveys flood damage, FEMA funds available


County Administrator Kevin Griffin operates a drone equipped with a camera to survey flood damage in Colleton County last week. The surveillance was used to help declare the county a federal disaster area, allowing Colleton residents to apply for FEMA funds.

With Colleton County now in repair mode from the recent flood, county residents are starting to hear of the work done behind the scenes by some of the county’s unsung heroes.
From road cleanup to emergency evacuations, Colleton County officials have worked for the last 15 days to prepare for, react to and now clean up from the flood. The waters that impacted Colleton County saturated South Carolina in what the state’s governor called “a one-in-1,000-year-flood.” “Fire Rescue and the sheriff’s office have been out everyday since the rain began, and were planning resource allocations well ahead of the storm,” said Barry McRoy, chief of Colleton County Fire-Rescue. “We had crews checking roads at least three times a day, patrolling flooding neighborhoods by 4×4 trucks and/or boats, and compiling lists of people who were remaining in their homes so we could check on them daily,” he said. “It was all to ensure people’s safety.”
McRoy and his teams, along with members of the sheriff’s office, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and swift rescue teams from fire departments in Tennessee and Virginia, have been patrolling Colleton’s rural areas, particularly the areas of S.C. Highway 61, the Edisto River, the Ashepoo River and Edisto Beach which were significantly impacted.
The Edisto River crested at 16.06 feet on Thursday. The river is considered to be at a “major flood stage” at 15 feet, according to county officials and NOAA. The high waters forced residents from near Givhans Ferry from their houses, while flooding low-lying areas along S.C. Highway 61 and Canadys. Additionally, law enforcement with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office assisted via traffic control in helping to rescue emus from a flooding private residence on S.C. Highway 61.

Colleton County Fire-Rescue officials joined the county’s Sheriff’s Office to survey the county for the last week. Several people were rescued from their homes, along with some arrests made for stealing from vacated houses.

At Edisto Beach, residents began wading through water two weeks ago, when preliminary rain bands from the flood put businesses and some houses several feet under water. By Sunday, however, Edisto Beach residents and officials were in clean-up mode. “We are starting to see the waters recede, and people are cleaning up,” said Edisto Beach Police Chief George Brothers. “Some of our roads are opening back up,” he said, on Sunday morning.
“To ensure the safety of citizens and their property, all Colleton County boat landings will be closed until further notice,” said Meagan Chaplin, administrative services director for Colleton County. “The sheriff asks everyone to stay away from these areas,” she said.
According to Chaplin, the Sheriff’s Office has also received numerous complaints from residents about boaters creating large wakes as they travel past flooded homes. “These wakes are causing homes that are only inches above water to become flooded,” she said.
“We are implementing No Wake Zones around all homes that are flooded and it will remain in effect until further notice,” said sheriff’s office Public Information Officer Shane Roberts.
Besides regular patrols, McRoy joined the county Administrator, Kevin Griffin, last week with officials from FEMA to survey county damage. After hours in Colleton, FEMA officials added the county to the list of South Carolina counties hardest hit by the flood, and declared Colleton a federal disaster zone. This means that Colleton residents impacted by the flood can apply for federal disaster relief assistance. “Today, President Obama’s major disaster declaration for the State of South Carolina was amended to include Colleton County,” said Chaplin. “This declaration will allow Colleton County residents and businesses to be eligible for federal disaster relief funds.”
Anyone wanting to apply for FEMA funds can go to www.scemd.org. This applies to businesses and individuals who have “major damage,” according to the county. “By clicking on FEMA Individual Assistance, you will be taken to www.disasterassistance.gov where you can apply for assistance online.” In addition to working in Colleton County, Fire Rescue sent assistance crews and personnel to Columbia and Georgetown to assist. If any Colleton County residents want to donate to help flood victims county or statewide, go to www.scemd.org.

Heather Walters (643 Posts)