By HEATHER WALTERS
Heavy rains that hit Colleton County during February sent the county into an official flood status, with many local bodies of water breaking their banks. The Edisto River and Ireland Creek in Walterboro are two examples, with those bodies of water rushing onto personal property and into some homes.
In those instances, local officials used boats and other forms of equipment to do survey checks on people and property. There were also rescue efforts done, particularly at the Ivanhoe Apartment Complex in Walterboro. The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office was asked to use its cargo truck to help relocate Walterboro residents from the rising waters, helping them onto higher ground.
The Sheriff’s Office does have boats that it uses for water patrol and water rescues. However, the M1078 Standard Cargo Truck is designed to transport large packs of gear – and people.
The military-style truck has a payload capacity of 2.27 tons and is equipped with a ladder to help people get in and out of the cargo bed. The truck is designed to handle moving bodies of water and is meant to help carry people out of flood situations.
According to Colleton County Sheriff Buddy Hill, the Sheriff’s Office received the truck in January of 2020, to help with water-related catastrophes. “It is a unique piece of rescue equipment,” he said. “The high clearance and substantial weight allow this vehicle to operate in 4-feet of water, without modification,” he said. “It takes only a few inches of water for the average vehicle to lose control, and less than 2-feet of water to carry away most vehicles.”
The CCSO acquired the vehicle through a law enforcement assistance program, according to Hill.
In 2020, the Sheriff’s Office responded to more than 20 water-related incidents. However, none of these were related to the Edisto River flooding.
As a part of the Sheriff’s Office water rescues and water patrol, the Sheriff’s Office also has a Special Response Team. This group of officers handles all search and rescue operations for the county – including water rescues.
The team consists of several different officers from various divisions within the Sheriff’s Office, including administration, road patrol, and investigations. This team is used at Edisto Beach and in all waterways in the county, including Bennetts Point, points along the coastline, the Edisto River, the Combahee River, the Asheepoo River, and area swamps.
“The Sheriff’s Office responds to missing and overdue boaters, boaters in distress, reported drownings, cars in water, and residential rescues from flooded areas,” said Hill. “The Sheriff’s Office also conducts patrols for violations of law and provides safety patrols for events.”
As the weather is getting warmer, the Sheriff’s Office is preparing for more people to be in local waterways. The law enforcement agency has one boat assigned to Edisto Beach and three additional boats that are used throughout the county.
All of the Sheriff’s Office watercraft is equipped with GPS, bright lights, and sonar. The Sheriff’s Office also has two ATVs and a UTV, which Hill said are also used for search and rescue and property recovery. All emergency equipment is purchased through asset forfeiture funds.