Oct. 11--Emergency officials continued Hurricane Matthew assessments Monday, though the extent of the damage may not be fully known until week's end.
"We have been seeing trees on houses, on mobile homes," Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said. "We have been seeing flooding in the Holly Hill area and power lines down."
Sounds of chain saws co-mingled with generators Monday across the county as residents took advantage of the cool, dry fall-like day to remove debris from yards and in some cases from homes. Others across the region still were without power, relying on generators.
Power throughout the day was slowly being restored across the area, but there were still thousands without electricity as the sun went down Monday.
Staley said in addition to private damage, county property such as Indian Bluff Recreational Park in Eutawville was hit hard. The park will be closed until further notice.
The county spent Monday assessing damage to public property in hopes of seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. In order for the county to qualify, damage must be at least $333,928.
"I am fairly confident we will meet this," Staley said. "We are currently doing damage assessments to pursue that funding mechanism and damage assessments to see if we can qualify for assistance for the citizens."
Should the damage assessments be significant enough, the county would qualify for a disaster declaration and federal funds.
Staley said the hardest hit areas were Broughton Street, Perryclear Street, Holly Hill and Eutawville.
At the storm's peak, there were about 75,000 people without power.
Hurricane Matthew's rains were still being felt days after its departure.
The North Fork of the Edisto River crested Monday afternoon at 8.93 feet, causing minor flooding in low-lying areas along the river. The river was forecast to go below flood stage of 8 feet Tuesday afternoon.
Staley said his department has not received any reports from homeowners of significant flooding on the river.
At the storm's peak, Staley said the county sheltered about 350 individuals. On Monday night, nine people remained at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School and Elloree Elementary School.
Calhoun County Emergency Services Director Bill Minikiewicz was stuck in traffic Monday afternoon trying to survey the damage in the upper part of the county.
"I can't do things we have to do with recovery," Minikiewicz said, explaining it had taken him a half hour to go three miles. The traffic was due to the mass return of evacuees back to the coastal areas.
Minikiewicz said the state Emergency Management Division wants initial damage assessment reports by Tuesday and a secondary assessment by Friday.
"We are checking on all public properties," he said, adding that he was in the process of heading toward the county's Emergency Medical Services station in Sandy Run where several trees fell. "We are also waiting for paperwork from all fire departments."
Minikiewicz said the damage assessments will be submitted to the state and the state will submit the damage assessments to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to see if the county qualifies for public disaster assistance or if individuals will qualify for any private assistance.
"It is a long, drawn-out process," he said.
Minikiewicz said the biggest damage expense will be downed trees and power lines, with some trees on homes.
"We have to go out and look at these things and come out with value on it," he said. "We have to reach a threshold (for public damage)."
Minikiewicz said the county must have at least $54,000 in damage to receive federal assistance. With Tri-County Electric Cooperatives' damage alone (which he believes to be at least $250,000), the county likely will easily exceed the threshold.
Minikiewicz said "there is damage all over Calhoun County."
"I would assume the lower end of the county is worse than the upper end," he said. "This is the hard part. We will go around the next few days looking."
Through the storm, the county sheltered about 20 individuals and responded to three medical urgencies. These included ensuring that people on life-saving, power-dependent devices had available power.
He said during the storm there were no rescues or injuries, but sometime these occur during cleanup as people get injured in recovery.
Private damage will be handled by insurance companies, which in turn will gauge whether there is enough damage to warrant any FEMA loans or grants, or Small Business Administration loans.
Bamberg County Public Information Officer Mallory Biering said the county's EOC continued operations Monday afternoon.
"We are doing damage assessments," Biering said. "We should be finished with that tomorrow afternoon. We have 400 square miles of road in Bamberg County. We will be trucking along in recovery mode until we are done."
Biering said there were no estimated damage amounts through Monday afternoon.
"There was damage all over," she said.
The county still had its shelter at 847 Calhoun St. in the Kearse building open for those still without power.
"We continue to work on roadways and continue to remove trees," Biering said. "A good portion of our county is still without power, especially in the rural part of the county."
Biering said there are an estimated 400 trees down in the county.
Despite the damage, Biering said many people heeded the advice to seek shelter.
"We had no one injured in Bamberg," she said. "When we had trees fall on houses, they were able to seek shelter with their family. Everyone is okay."
Contact the writer: [email protected] or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD
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