102016 News for Pawleys Island, Litchfield and Murrells Inlet
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After Matthew: Damage in Georgetown County rises to $25M

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Property damage estimates from Hurricane Matthew have surpassed $25 million in Georgetown County, and residents were notified this week they will be eligible to apply for individual federal assistance.

Georgetown is one of 17 counties in the state approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for individual assistance that includes money for temporary rent and essential home repairs for primary homes, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help survivors recover. FEMA said Georgetown County was eligible for public assistance last week.

“It’s a two-step process,” said Sel Hemingway, county administrator. “Immediately following a disaster, the state has to demonstrate it incurred enough damage to meet the federal threshold for public assistance. Then FEMA people inspect to determine if there is enough damage to private property.” FEMA will send representatives to Georgetown County to conduct interviews and assist people in filing applications for assistance, Hemingway said.

There is good news this week. Flooding in the county is receding, he said. The Black River has been in decline since Sunday, and the Waccamaw crested in Conway Tuesday night. “We are kind of lucky on the Waccamaw,” Hemingway said, “in that the water spreads out when it gets to us rather than rising vertically and causing damage. Now that it’s peaked, we should see stabilization and a gradual fall in the water level.”

High water and a king tide on creeks and channels off the Waccamaw have served to flood Kings River Road between All Saints Church and Litchfield Plantation twice a day this week. The tide has peaked, but the flooding may still be a problem for a few more days.

Public roads are littered with piles of broken limbs and trees felled by the hurricane. Georgetown County has signed an agreement with the state Department of Transportation to remove the storm debris and apply for federal reimbursement. Hemingway said the county has also requested a waiver from FEMA for reimbursement for the cost of debris removal in gated communities and on private roads with multiple homes. FEMA’s rules grant reimbursement for debris removal from public roads, and a similar request was denied following the October 2015 floods.

Contractors began picking up hurricane debris Monday. It must be separated into the following six categories for curbside pickup: electronics, large appliances, household hazardous waste, vegetative debris, construction debris and household garbage. Residents are being encouraged to remove their own storm-related debris and place it at the Pawleys Island recycling center or the county landfill on Highway 51. Landfill fees are being waived.

County recreation director Beth Goodale said many beach walkways and the Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk and Jetty View Pier were damaged. With regional softball and baseball tournaments scheduled to use county facilities this fall, a contractor has been hired to repair the lights on county ball parks. Hurricane winds have them shining in all directions, she said.

Billboards along the Waccamaw Neck Commercial Corridor are being assessed. If damage exceeds 70 percent, they cannot be rebuilt. “We’re going to follow the letter of the law,” planning director Boyd Johnson said. Billboard owners must have a permit before beginning repairs. One crew was stopped from repairing a billboard on Highway 17 this week.

CEO Lonnie Carter praised Santee Cooper employees for their efforts restoring power during a board meeting in Litchfield last week. He said 137,000 of Santee Cooper’s 175,000 retail customers were without electricity after Hurricane Matthew. All but 1,200 had been restored within five days, he said. “I have seen the best of Santee Cooper,” Carter told board members. “It’s great to see our company pull together as a team. Had we not worked together with the cooperatives, the shortages would have been even more severe.”

Carter said more than 700 retail employees assisted line crews during the power outage. “We had no problem housing, feeding and transporting people to job sites,” he said.

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