South Carolina

How much damage did Hurricane Florence cause in SC? Far less than expected

Hurricane Florence caused much less damage to the Palmetto State than South Carolina officials initially estimated.

According to new numbers from the S.C. Emergency Management Division, the state’s recovery from Florence has cost more than $600 million to date, half of the $1.2 billion that officials initially estimated as floodwaters inundated the state.

“These are all initial estimates that will probably fluctuate for several months, possibly several years, at least for the disaster-recovery portion,” Emergency Management spokesman Derrec Becker said. “And a lot of these programs are still very active.”

The new figure is based on actual damages reported and disaster-recovery assessments conducted by federal, state and local officials in the field. It represents federal assistance requested by individuals, local governments, small businesses and farmers for projected uninsured losses due to the storm, including:

  • $108 million in community development block grants for disaster recovery
  • $200 million from the federal Disaster Relief Fund
  • $111 million from the National Flood Insurance Program
  • $125 million from the U.S. Agriculture Department
  • $45 million from the Small Business Administration
  • $18 million from the Federal Highway Administration

The figure does not include private insurance claims. “That would probably push that number upward quite significantly,” Emergency Management’s Becker said.

A representative of the S.C. Department of Insurance could not immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster sent a letter Friday to South Carolina’s congressional delegation with the revised estimates to request federal money for Hurricane Florence recovery.

More than 4,750 individuals applied for and were approved for disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency that totaled $20 million. Two thousand homes suffered flood damage in Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties, according to McMaster.

“Of these seven counties, the number of flood damaged homes in Horry County is significant,” McMaster wrote. “Many of these residents face serious personal financial challenges in making the necessary repairs to their homes. Sadly, some are dealing with the startling prospect of total home loss and the inability to afford replacement. Damage to critical public infrastructure like roads, bridges, water and sewer equipment, utilities, parks, as well as small businesses and farming has also been reported in these counties.”

S.C. residents have until Dec. 5 to register for individual assistance from FEMA.

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 recovery, according to FEMA.

“Things have tapered off significantly in terms of people registering for assistance, and Team South Carolina days played a big role in that to put the agencies in one place for people to get services and assistance,” Becker said of disaster recovery centers opened by Gov. McMaster in communities affected by Florence to help residents with damages and losses.

The events provide local residents and businesses a one-stop opportunity to learn about relief resources available to them from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other public and private agencies.

By comparison, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 cost South Carolina $320 million in recovery costs, Becker said, noting the state still is working to provide assistance to organizations affected by that storm.

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.

South Carolina received roughly $204 million from FEMA for the 2015 floods and about $280 million for 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, according to Emergency Management. Those figures do not include insurance claims or disaster grants from agencies other than FEMA.

“We did dodge a bullet and didn’t have much of a wind event associated with Florence,” Becker said. “But, in terms of rain, we got rainfall amounts that did exceed Matthew, which was the previous state record.”

He said state officials should have a much clearer picture of Florence’s recovery costs in the next six or so months.

Tom Barton: 803-771-8304, @tjbarton83