South Carolina suffered roughly $1 billion in losses during last fall’s historic storm, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday.
But fixed roads and ongoing repairs to storm-damaged homes highlighted Haley’s rundown of the state’s triumphs after record rain on Oct. 4.
“We saw devastation like we had never seen, and we quickly got to work,” Haley said.
The losses included $741 million in damage to housing, $137 million in damage to state roads and more than $200 million in damage to other public assets, Haley said.
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Thirty-six of 541 state roads closed by the storm remain closed. But two-thirds of those are closed because of unstable or failed dams, Haley said.
The Haley-backed One S.C. Flood Recovery Fund has received nearly $1.65 million in donations and $12.7 million in donated skilled labor, she said.
Those donations have helped volunteer organizations rebuild or begin repairs to 1,100 homes statewide as S.C. officials await nearly $157 million in federal flood-recovery aid, she said.
“We weren’t going to let people live like that. We knew that we had to fix it,” Haley said. “The One S.C. Fund allowed us to go ahead and get these homes started. It’s going to be several months, still, until we get the money that we need from HUD.”
Not everyone is thrilled with Haley’s post-flood response.
S.C. farmers were upset when the Republican vetoed a $40 million state-aid package aimed at covering an estimated $370 million in crop losses from the storm. “It was frustrating for all of us in agriculture,” S.C. Farm Bureau president Harry Ott said Thursday. “We simply didn’t understand why she couldn’t understand that … agriculture is different than every other small business.”
Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to override Haley’s veto.
Haley said she couldn’t support bailing out farmers while other small businesses and individuals suffered. “To place one group over the others just didn’t seem fair to me,” she said Thursday.
The storm left 19 dead and, at one point, 40,000 people without water, according to the governor’s office. More than 20,000 S.C. residents were displaced and more than 1,500 residents were rescued from flood waters, Haley’s office said.
S.C. communities now are awaiting nearly $157 million in aid from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
When it arrives, that money – about $96.8 million will go directly to the state – can be used to meet remaining “unmet housing, economic development, and infrastructure needs that resulted from thousands of homes and small businesses being damaged or destroyed” during the storm, according to HUD.
State officials have said they will use the money to ensure vulnerable residents have suitable housing. The state has scheduled several town halls starting next week to present its preliminary plan for the money.
Haley also said Thursday that retired Army Col. Kevin Shwedo would return to his role as director of the state Department of Motor Vehicles after an eight-month stint as the state’s flood recovery director.
He will be replaced by retired Army Col. J.R. Sanderson, who has worked in Shwedo’s recovery office.
“He has been with Col. Shwedo since Day One, so this is not bringing in someone new,” Haley said. “This is someone who has been doing all the work, and now we’re just going to the next phase. And so that next phase is very much dealing with how we’re going to deal with the housing grant money going forward and where we’re going to go from there.”