February 14, 2014

Storm damage will top $15 million, insurance officials estimate

Hundreds of auto and homeowner claims had been reported to S.C. Insurance News Service by noon Friday.

With claims still rolling in, the S.C. Insurance News Service estimated the insured damage from the storm will top $15 million in the state.

By noon, the major insurance companies that report to the service had received about 1,200 auto claims and about 2,000 homeowner claims related to the storm, according to Russ Dubisky, executive director of the service.

The biggest economic damage could be to timber, the state’s top cash crop bringing in $679 million annually. A 2004 ice storm that hit a similar swath of the state did $95 million in damage to timber farms. Typically, the worst damage is in pine plantations that have been thinned, leaving gaps for where pines can bend and snap.

Timber farmer John Spearman in the Williamsburg County community of Lane said he was having trouble assessing parts of his farm because so many trees were across roads. While damage didn’t appear to be devastating in the sections of his farm he could see, he did drive by one stand of pines that had been thinned recently by a neighbor. About 50 percent of the remaining trees appeared to have snapped in the ice. And in downtown Kingstree, every side street on Thursday seemed to have a tree across it, he said.

Still, he didn’t agree with some on social media who are comparing the damage this week to the forest devastation from Hurricane Hugo.

“I was here during Hugo,” he said. “This is not Hugo damage, but it’s bad.”

Another indication of the damage, at least seven state parks in the Lowcountry and Midlands were closed early Friday because they had no power, had significant tree damage, or both. Those were Aiken, Barnwell, Colleton, Givhans Ferry, Poinsett, Redcliffe and Santee — all in the swath from Aiken down to Barnwell and over to Sumter and Berkeley counties.

Click here for full coverage of this week's winter storm, including closings (and openings), power outages and cleanup.

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