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Environment: Rains leave county awash with mosquitoes

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County had the heaviest two-day rainfall it has experienced in at least 26 years, with more than 7 inches recorded at the Georgetown airport from July 24-26.

It was a welcome respite after a long run of hot, dry weather, but with the rain came the mosquitoes.

“We took my grandson for a walk, pulling him behind us in a wagon and in no time he was covered from head to toe with mosquitoes,” said Jerry Rovner, a Pawleys Plantation resident. They had to abort the walk and get the 4-year-old back inside.

Mosquitoes also drove him and his family indoors on Saturday during a trip to the zoo at Brookgreen Gardens.

“I’ve talked to people who have lived here all their lives and they said they’ve never seen it this bad,” he said. “They’re just swarming all over.”

Rovner is in charge of animal control for the Pawleys Plantation Property Owners Association and said he received at least 50 e-mails about mosquito problems since the rain started on Friday, prompting him to call County Council Member Bob Anderson to see if the county could provide some help.

“I started getting complaints over the weekend and some of them were from me,” Anderson said. The mosquito population on Waccamaw Neck must have numbered in the “gazillions” this week by his estimate.

That’s probably not a bad guess, according to Ray Funnye, the county’s director of public services. But the county is doing its best to improve the situation, he said on Wednesday. At that point it’s efforts were limited to ground spraying.

“We also have plans for an aerial assault,” he said. But wind and drizzling rain that continued through Wednesday morning kept planes used for aerial spraying from taking off.

“We’re doing all we can with the resources we have to maintain some level of stability,” Funnye said. All our forces are working on the ground in the evenings, and our aircraft are on standby. As soon as conditions allow we will have them in the air.”

Ground spraying has been taking place county wide and is usually done in the evenings. Aerial spraying takes place in the early mornings and evenings.

According to a spraying schedule provided to Anderson, ground spraying was scheduled to take place July 25-30 between 7 p.m. and midnight at DeBordieu, Prince George, Waterford Heights, Pawleys Plantation, Litchfield and Murrells Inlet.

“I don’t think they’ve come up our way yet,” said Anderson, who lives at Heritage Plantation. “I haven’t seen them.”

Rovner said his neighborhood was sprayed shortly after he called Anderson and it helped, but didn’t solve the problem.

“I don’t know how much of it got washed away with the rain,” he said.

Funnye said aerial spraying is generally more effective than ground spraying, so the problem should abate after those efforts start. The summer has been so dry up until now, there hasn’t been much cause for mosquito spraying this year.

“The larvae hatched when the rain started Friday,” Funnye said. And in no time county residents were swatting and scratching in the midst of a mosquito onslaught.

The county is always ready to launch a counter-attack against mosquitoes after a heavy rain during the summer. Funnye advises residents to take precautions to limit mosquitoes breeding around their homes and businesses.

“We encourage people not to have areas where stagnant water can accumulate and doesn’t drain,” he said. “That provides opportunities for mosquitoes to hatch and for the problem to probably become bigger than it might have.”

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