South Carolina’s recovery from Hurricane Florence could cost more than $1 billion.
Gov. Henry McMaster formally requested $1.2 billion in aid Thursday from the federal government as the state deals with continued flooding from the storm, which landed on the coast nearly a week ago.
S.C. Emergency Management Division director Kim Stenson said the figure represents an early estimate of losses, based on previous recent disasters.
The request — in the form of a letter sent to members of the state’s congressional delegation — includes:
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▪ $540 million in community development block grants for disaster recovery
▪ $300 million from the federal Disaster Relief Fund
▪ $165 million from the National Flood Insurance Program
▪ $125 million from the U.S. Agriculture Department
▪ $80 million from the Small Business Administration
▪ $18 million from the Federal Highway Administration
The money will go for repairs to roads and bridges, water-control facilities, utilities, public parks and beaches, as well as building and equipment replacement, the letter says.
For more than two days, Florence slowly crept across South Carolina, battering the state with hurricane-force winds, storm surge and massive amounts of rainfall.
“Deadly localized flash flooding washed out roads and bridges, submerged homes and left residents stranded from Chesterfield all the way to Horry County,” McMaster wrote in his letter. “The rainfall and flooding in North Carolina is sending unheard of amounts of water into South Carolina along the Lynches, Great Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers.
“The damage in the northeastern part of our state will be catastrophic, surpassing anything recorded in modern history.”
The National Weather Service says its analysis confirms the extreme three-day rainfall constituted a “1,000-year” event — exceeding the 0.1 percent probability expected in any given year.
The governor has asked President Donald Trump to authorize federal disaster recovery money for 23 S.C. counties through the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as assistance to individuals. Those counties are: Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Chester, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Fairfield, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter, Williamsburg and York.
Individual assistance would include money for temporary rental assistance and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help survivors recover, according to FEMA.
The S.C. Emergency Management Division and S.C. Disaster Recovery Office provided preliminary estimates in anticipation of actual damage assessments.
The estimates are based primarily on information from Hurricane Matthew and the assumption that the state suffered substantial damage from Florence as multiple rivers across the state have, will or are expected to reach moderate, major or record flood stages.
S.C. officials also based their analysis on the fact the counties impacted by the storm have high proportions of low- to moderate-income residents, “which do not have the means to recover themselves and are vulnerable to disaster impacts,” S.C. Disaster Recover Office Program Management director Jeffrey Sanderson wrote in a letter to McMaster.
Many of the counties, too, still are recovering after being hit back-to-back with devastating flooding in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
“Repeated disaster events have significant and lasting impacts upon populations, communities and counties,” Sanderson wrote in his letter to the governor.
He emphasized the estimates are “a snapshot in time,” and could increase or decrease.
South Carolina has experienced four natural disasters in the last four years that drastically have impacted rural communities throughout the state. Sanderson said the requested block grants that would help those battered communities with housing, infrastructure and economic development.
By comparison, the floods of 2015 caused an estimated $2.2 billion in damage to the state, according to Emergency Management That figure includes the total cost to government agencies, private insurance claims and estimated agricultural losses. Cost figures for Hurricane Matthew were not immediately available.
South Carolina received roughly $204 million from FEMA for the 2015 floods and more than $280 million for 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, according to Emergency Management. That figure does not include insurance claims or disaster grants from agencies besides FEMA.
FEMA has $25.6 billion in its disaster relief fund, which U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, said earlier this week is sufficient “to get started” meeting the state’s recovery needs.