Governor Henry McMaster addressed the public in a press conference from South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) this afternoon at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, September 26, 2018.
Governor McMaster began by saying that while the actual hurricane, Hurricane Florence, was not as bad as predicted, the flooding that occured in Florence's aftermath was as bad as predicted. Areas in Georgetown, Socastee, Conway and other coastal areas are still experiencing "enormous flooding" the governor said.
Florence was such a different storm because it exited so slowly. Unlike other notable South Carolina hurricanes like Hugo or Matthew, after making landfall Florence stayed in South Carolina for three days. The storm dumped heavy rainfall in North and South Carolina, which then flowed into waterways in waves and caused significant flooding.
"This is unprecedented and we are still in full battle mode in Georgetown county and Horry county. The water has not yet crested." said McMaster. Team South Carolina is now preparing to enter the "third phase" which consists of repairs, damage assessment and taking care of South Carolina citizens and their needs.
The number to call in relation to government assistance is 1-800-621-FEMA. Assistance will be provided through various programs and operations that are being put into effect. You can also register at disasterassistance.gov or download the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management) app. Governor McMaster assured that while the next phase will take time and patience, Team South Carolina has done everything to ensure every asset is available to affected South Carolinians.
The governor also reminded those with insurance on their home or business to go ahead and contact your insurance comapny to begin the claims process.
Chesterfield, Marlboro, Dillon, Marion, Horry and Georgetown counties have all been granted Declarations for Individual Assistance at this time.
Chief Brock Long from FEMA commended Governor McMaster's strong leadership, alongside SCEMD and the National Guard.
"Disaster response and recovery works best when it's locally executed, state managed and federally supported. I'm here to be on the ground making sure we are doing everything to meet the governor's demands on helping South Carolinians overcome this disaster." Chief Long said.
"The problem is the event is still ongoing and it's going to be frustrating for many of those as water continues to creep down the basins."
Chief Long continued that FEMA is doing everything possible to preposition itself and support to be ready to help individuals as well as communities as waters begin to recede. FEMA representatives are working alonside state partners to begin addressing case management and setting up disaster recovery centers. There are around 400 FEMA agents on the ground at this time, a number that is expected to grow. Around 4,000 South Carolinians have applied for government assistance thus far.
When a citizen makes a call to FEMA, if they have un-insured or under-insured losses, their information is taken, and typically an inspector comes to evaluate the damaged property. In the wake of Florence, many homes will be inaccessible for a period of time, so there is the potential to receive rental assitance. When a residence is accessible again, the affected indivuals should call FEMA again to request a second inspection. When funds are approved they can be received via check or direct deposit.
The representative from SCEMD said at this time there are 976 homes with minor damage, over 1,000 with major damage, and about 46 homes that are considered destroyed. These are preliminary estimates, which will likely grow in the coming weeks.
For those looking to reenter affected and potentially dangerous areas, pay attention to the directions of local law enforcement and county emergency managers. They will be informing communities if they need to evacuate and seek higher ground as well as when it is safe to return. Waters are swift, and even boating can be very dangerous.
General Livingston emphasized the importance of patience, and allowing all flood waters to fully recede before reentering or boating in affected areas. Rescue operations put everyone, including emergency responders, at risk.
If you wish to help community members in need by donating funds or volunteering your time, you can visit the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) website.
South Carolina’s emergency helpline is now active around the clock. Anyone with questions related to Florence should call the Public Information Phone System at 1-866-246-0133.