FLOODED: And the river’s not done yet | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 7, 2015 3:12 pm
Last Updated: October 7, 2015 at 3:27 pm
Edisto River at 15.25 feet, expected to continue to rise until weekend.
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
Everyone who had a stake in the county’s response to last weekend’s deluge says that Colleton County was lucky.
Lucky that Colleton County was on the edge of the downpour brought ashore by Hurricane Joaquin. The Charleston office of the National Weather Service reported Colleton County averaged between eight and nine inches of rain, according to the rain gauges monitored by the office.
Charleston and Dorchester rain gauges recorded levels in the high teens. One Mount Pleasant rain gauge reported 24 inches of rain in the 72-hour period Joaquin pounded South Carolina.
Lucky that the Monday afternoon winds approaching 30 miles an hour that the National Weather Service was predicting never arrived.
A saturated earth followed by high winds would have toppled trees, likely causing wide spread electrical outages.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Walterboro Water and Sewer Director Wayne Crosby said Monday morning as his evaluation of the city’s utilities found that they withstood the brunt of the heavy rains.
Colleton County Administrator Kevin Griffin agrees that it could have been much worse for the county if “we had not been on the edge of the storm.”
Of course, the residents along the Colleton County side of the Edisto River who were chased from their homes by the rising water, those of Edisto Beach who were slammed by high seas and those residents along Ireland Creek evacuated from their apartments weren’t feeling all that lucky.
Edisto Beach’s situation resulted in the town’s officials closing off access to their community over the weekend and Monday morning, county officials implemented a voluntary evacuation of the homes along the Edisto River as the rain caused the river to rapidly begin to flood.
On Monday, the federal government designated eight South Carolina counties as federal disaster areas. Neighboring Charleston and Dorchester counties were on the list; Colleton County wasn’t.
That will change soon, according to Griffin.
Colleton County wasn’t on the initial list, Griffin explained, because “we didn’t get damage assessment numbers to them. We did not dispatch our damage assessment folks because we are waiting on the water to recede.”
Griffin pointed out that the county’s damage assessment team, made up of county employees of the assessor’s office, were sent to Edisto Beach Tuesday to begin work on assessing damages.
Griffin said the assessment of the damage along the Edisto River has to wait until the flood waters recede — he expects that that work can’t begin for at least a week.
Griffin pointed out that a number of counties that were in the heart of the storm like Florence and Calhoun also weren’t on the list yet. The initial list of counties declared a disaster was based on an aerial survey of the flood damage by the state.
He said that Colleton officials were busy with dealing with the effects of the rain, not assessing the damage.
“We took Monday to focus on getting people off the Edisto River, not the assessment,” Griffin said.
To be added to the disaster list, Griffin explained, “We have to hit a threshold. Our county threshold is $134,000 in damages.”
At Tuesday’s council session, Griffin advised members that a partial survey of Edisto Beach’s damage had already topped $300,000.
The county also expects to see further property damage as the rivers continue to swell because of the heavy rains upstream. Please forward any information about damage to property within the county — type of damage, the location of the property and any pictures — to email@example.com or call 843-549-1213 so the information may included in the county’s formal damage assessment submitted to FEMA. This will help the county meet the threshold required to receive FEMA assistance.
For more information contact Colleton County Emergency Preparedness at 843-549-5632. As always, for an emergency, dial 9-1-1.
The National Weather Service is projecting that the river will continue to rise until Friday, when it will top off at approximately 16 feet, eight inches. It was at 15 feet, two inches at 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning. On Saturday Oct. 3, the river gauge at Givhans showed a river depth of less than four feet.
This flood will rise near the top of the list of historic floods on the Edisto River.
National Weather Service records list a 1925 flood on the Edisto River as the largest, topping out at 17 and one-half feet.
The National Weather Service predicts that the river will remain at 16.4 feet for seven to eight days and at flood stage (10 feet) until Oct. 23.
Monday, the county authorized a voluntary evacuation of homes within a quarter of a mile of the river and members of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office and the Colleton County Fire-Rescue began going door to door to alert residents to the voluntary evacuation.
The public should seek shelter with friends or family outside of the quarter-mile evacuation zone. Jericho United Methodist Church at 1901 Peirce Road, Cottageville, is open as an American Red Cross shelter. Pets are not permitted in American Red Cross shelters.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office has received complaints of individuals driving boats at a high rate of speed along the flooded portions of the river. The Sheriff’s Office has asked that boaters to limit use of the river to assisting those in need during this flood. Those who must use a boat or personal watercraft at this time should maintain “no wake,” as boat activity at the current flood levels increases property damage.
Fire-Rescue Chief Barry McRoy said anyone who has lived along the Edisto River has dealt with floods in the past and has plans for dealing with the situation.
“They have been through this before, they have a plan and have been very cooperative,” Griffin added.
McRoy said Tuesday afternoon that eight members of the Colleton County Fire-Rescue were driving every road in the county and reporting impassable roadways to Colleton County Dispatch.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office has three boats working the river, checking on residents in the flood zone.
“Emergency Preparedness, the sheriff’s office and the fire department have been working their tails off to make sure those folks are getting out of harm’s way,” Griffin said..
“Everyone is doing what they have been asked to do and are following through on their responsibilities,” he added.
“We are keeping an eye on everything going on at the river,” Griffin said.