Some residents still coping with last October’s rains | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | September 29, 2016 5:00 am
Last Updated: September 28, 2016 at 10:42 am
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
As the one-year anniversary of the flood that inundated much of South Carolina nears, some Colleton residents are continuing to cope with the aftermath.
Last Friday, Colleton County Emergency Management Director Suzanne Gant, Hearts and Hands Disaster Recovery Case Manager Kiersten Stowe and Lowcountry Long-Term Recovery Committee member Jessie Gooding visited three residents continuing to live with the results of the heavy rains that resulted in the 1,000-year flood.
The homes of Cornelia Davis, Hazel Sanders and Daisy Mae Walker Bradford are not near the Edisto River or the other Colleton County waterways that raced over their banks. It wasn’t the floodwaters that assaulted their residences — it was the massive rains that did the damage.
When the rains came, Cornelia Davis’s quaint brick home found the house’ septic system knocked out by the accumulation of storm water. The overflowing water from the septic tank and the standing storm water attacked the crawl space beneath her home, bringing with it a mold problem.
Davis, living on a retiree’s income, used her own funds and the labor of a nephew to tackle the emergency work necessary to clean and sanitize the crawl space.
She is seeking further assistance from Hearts and Hands Disaster Recovery and the Lowcountry Long-Term Recovery Committee handle the mold remediation work for a more permanent solution.
Stowe said that while funding could be available soon to address Davis’s needs, no funds are available to reimburse the woman for the money she spent in the days following the early October downpour.
The group moved onto the Sander’s residence, where the signs of interior water damage, caused when her home’s roof failed, are still visible. Walls and ceilings still show the damage.
Immediately after the storm, Sanders explained, a relative made some repairs to the roof, but it hasn’t been enough.
She hopes to find the funding necessary to make permanent repairs to the roof and then make the final repairs to the home’s exterior.
The tour then moved on to the residence of Walker Bradford.
The heavy rains sent water into her septic system, shutting it down, and tore open the roof on the mobile home where she has lived in for 22 years.
The rainwater came inside, destroying her walls and ceilings. The water-logged doors become unusable.
The damage has not abated. Recently, the floors in her home have started giving away, sagging underfoot.
Bradford had sought FEMA funds to cope with the storm damage. She was given a check for $754 by FEMA and was told by FEMA to use the money to handle the damage to the septic tank and damaged doors.
Davis and Sanders did not receive any FEMA money to cope with their damage.
Stowe said that’s not unusual. “Some receive large sums (from FEMA), others none or a very low amount.”
Stowe said Hearts and Hands Disaster Recovery, hired by South Carolina last spring to handle the case management of the residents harmed by the October rains, currently has a list of over 100 Colleton County clients who still need assistance in repairing their homes.
The list continues to grow, Stowe added. Each week she receives a list of storm and flood victims still seeking relief.
“We are still taking clients,” Stowe said. To join the client list, residents needing assistance call 211. “You go through a series of prompts, then speak to a person about being put on list,” Stowe said.
Stowe said just 15 of the current clients have completed the proper documentation for receive assistance.
Just three of those, she said, have undergone the assessment needed to detail the extent of damage and put a total dollar amount on it. The assessments are not scheduled until the paperwork is completed.
The three women visited last week are still waiting for that assessment.
Stowe said that her agency only has one volunteer assessor handling the work, when he has free time from his paid assessments. She added that Hearts and Hands hopes to line up a second assessor soon.
While Hearts and Hands is handling the paperwork and assessments, the task of helping to find the funds has been assigned to the Lowcountry Long-Term Recovery Committee.
Gooding, who is the group’s local fundraising coordinator, said funds have been trickling in, but that could change soon. She is going to be sending out letters explaining the need, and seeking funds and volunteer assistance to churches throughout the county.
Stowe adds that in the coming months, the work of the groups could be fueled by a Community Development Block Grant.
The efforts have already received a grant from the Red Cross to fuel the early prep work on the program. Hearts and Hands is paid by the state.
Gant said that after the October rains and flood, the Colleton County Emergency Preparedness Office teamed with their counterparts in Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties to form the Lowcountry Long-Term Recovery Committee.
Although the committee is designed to work in all four counties, most of the need is in Colleton.
Although the committee was formed after the October weather disaster, Gant explained, it will be a permanent fixture in helping to address recovery efforts throughout the four-county area. Anyone interested in becoming part of the Lowcountry Long-Term Recovery effort can obtain more information and sign up by contacting the Emergency Preparedness Office.
The grant money, once it arrives, will go toward the purchase of material in most cases, Stowe said. “We hope to utilize volunteers for labor,” she added.
That search for volunteer labor is part of the reason for the letters to the churches. “We are working to get word out for volunteers,” Gooding explained.
Anyone wishing to donate, she said, can send donations to the In His Hands Ministry, P.O. Box 146, Walterboro, S.C. 24988. Stacey See, who leads In His Hands, is the vice-chairman of Lowcountry Long-Term Recovery Committee.