Politics & Government

Even after Hurricane Matthew, danger remains in SC

The storm has passed, but the danger hasn’t.

SC Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday that state officials are looking at rising waters and potential dam failures across the state that may still cause problems for state residents, even after Hurricane Matthew passed by the South Carolina coast on Saturday.

“What is not flooded today could be flooded tomorrow,” Haley warned.

Regulators have concerns about 250 dams across the state due to damage from Hurricane Matthew, said Catherine Heigel, director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. As of 10 a.m. Monday, 161 dams have been inspected.

Seven dams in the Pee Dee and Midlands regions have failed, four of them regulated and three unregulated. Heigel said the regulated dams that failed are located in Clarendon, Dillon and Horry counties, some of the worst hit by the weekend’s storm. Baywater Drive in Lexington County also breached. Two other dams in the Pee Dee area are also being watched for potential failures.

State officials also said they are watching the Little Pee Dee, Lumber and Waccamaw rivers for potential flooding. The Black River is also an area of concern.

“We’re seeing a lot of damage,” Haley said. “Most first floors are gone if not homes altogether.”

Chief Mark Keel of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division said law enforcement agencies are starting river patrols to evacuate residents caught by the water as it moves down stream.

Patrols also will travel the rivers at night, Keel said, “to keep individuals from coming in and looting those homes that will not have anybody there.”

Those patrols will continue until the flood subsides, Keel said.

Director Alvin Taylor of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources told sightseers to stay off the river where boats going by will only add to damage of homes.

Nichols in Marion County near the North Carolina border, which Haley flew over on Monday, was badly hit.

About 150 Nichols residents went to the town hall to seek shelter and were on the third floor when they were rescued, Haley said. Natural Resources responded with the National Guard and other agencies to rescue those residents. Emergency crews also rescued 12 aerial rescues on the Little Pee Dee River.

Flooding is a primary concern for state officials after floods struck many in the state after heavy rains last year.

“Unfortunately, may of those affected by last year’s floods have been re-affected by the storm,” Haley said Monday.

Because of the damage, new donations to the One SC Fund, established to assist victims of last year’s flood, will also go toward assisting victims of Hurricane Matthew.

Haley also said Monday she asked President Obama for an expedited disaster declaration for South Carolina that would allow the state to draw on federal assistance for its hurricane damage.

Dam owners are asked to report the status or any problems with their dams to 803-898-4312.

Evacuation orders have been lifted in all counties, but some Lowcountry islands – Fripp, Harbor and Hunting – are closed pending bridge repair.

S.C. Department of Transportation Chief Christy Hall said there were 390 closures – 361 roads and 29 bridges – because of the storm.

As of the governor’s update, there were 473,567 customers without power statewide. That’s down from roughly 650,000 late Sunday afternoon.