South Carolina Focus

SC Focus is a regular feature of South Carolina Public Radio.  As its name suggests, the segment focuses on the Palmetto State and its people.  It covers a wide variety of subjects, from South Carolina's war veterans to scientists, musicians and other topics, both serious and whimsical.  SC Focus can be heard at various times throughout the week during our news program on all South Carolina Public Radio stations.

Ways to Connect

A helicopter view of some of the October 2015 flooding in South Carolina.
SC National Guard

  Sunny skies on Tuesday let officials get a better look at the damage done by the flooding from the recent record rainfall. Gov. Nikki Haley says what she saw via helicopter was "...disturbing. And it is hard to look at the loss we are going to have." Her focus is now on recovery. And she warns all motorists not to drive past barriers erected by safety officials.


  The latest warnings and advisories from NOAA's National Weather service are available at

Aerial view of the Charleston, S.C. area, Oct. 5, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann

In South Carolina flooding continues to disrupt daily life in many communities. Though the record rainfall of the last three days has abated, rivers continue to rise. At least 11 people have died in the state since the heavy rain began.

As Laura Hunsberger reports, concerns about dam breaches and flash flooding continue in the Midlands.

Gov. Haley: "We need to continue to be careful."

Oct 6, 2015

  Governor Nikki Haley said in a press conference today that, "God smiled on South Carolina--the sun is out." However, the Governor urged continued caution because swollen rivers, creeks, and streams are still channeling water from South Carolina's record rainfall, so there is still a possibility of some flooding and damage.

Update at 4:30 a.m. ET Tuesday: Death Toll Raised To At Least 13

Record rainfall is expected to taper off in much of South Carolina Tuesday, after severe flooding left houses in Columbia and elsewhere with water up to their eaves. But officials say the crisis is not over, and residents should stay away from dangerous roadways.

At least 11 deaths were reported in the South Carolina and two in North Carolina.

In South Carolina, some 40,000 people are without water. In addition, 70 miles of Interstate 95 are closed to traffic.

Forest Drive near Four Paws, Columbia Classical Ballet and other businesses were heavily damaged by floodwaters in South Carolina's October flood.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  In the wake of historic rainfall and flooding, South Carolina is only beginning to dig its way out while still experiencing rain and high waters. Two Columbia businesses, the Four Paws Animal Clinic and the Columbia Classical Ballet, are assessing the damage from a distance, as both buildings are largely or completely underwater.

Owners Nori Warren of Four Paws and Radenko Pavlovich of CCB share an uncertainty about what’s next, but both are determined that they will continue to offer their services, whether in their present locations or elsewhere.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Governor Haley gives a press conference at the SC Emergency Management Division.

   Gov. Nikki Haley spoke w the media today,  updating the latest numbers from the weekend storms and praising the hard work of First Responders.

The Shandon neighborhood in Columbia, SC, Monday, Oct 5.
Timothy Carrier

  Record rainfall is expected to taper off Monday, after severe flooding left houses in Columbia and elsewhere with water up to their eaves. But officials say the crisis is not over, and residents should stay away from dangerous roadways.

At least nine deaths were reported in the state, and some 40,000 people are without water. In addition, 70 miles of Interstate 95 are closed to traffic.

"If you're in your house, continue to stay in your house," Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday morning. "This is not the time to take pictures." She added that even in areas where rain has stopped, "This is not over."

Listen to the Governor's entire press conference, below.

South Carolina Hit Hard By Weekend Storm

Oct 5, 2015

After historic flooding this weekend, tens of thousands of South Carolinians are without electricity and the South Carolina National Guard is assisting in search and rescue missions.

In Columbia, the state capital, residents are being urged to boil their water and hospitals are considering evacuation because water main breaks are causing outages and low pressure. Portable toilets have been placed outside of University of South Carolina residence halls.

Effective through Monday morning, the National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for Northeast Georgia, North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina, including Greenville and Spartanburg. 8 to 12 inches of rain will be possible in these areas, which could result in life-threatening flash flooding. Another wave of heavy rain is expected tonight and flooding is likely along rivers and streams.

The City of Greenville is monitoring the conditions and residents can call the city’s helpline, Greenville Cares at 864-232-CARE. In an emergency, call 911.

Historic levels of rainfall are predicted for the Midlands. The city of Columbia’s Mayor Steve Benjamin says that although rain may not seem threatening, the roads may be dangerous. lists potentially dangerous intersections to avoid. A toll-free telephone line has been established for questions about the severe weather conditions in the state. Citizens with storm-related questions can call 1-866-246-0133 and the system will operate 24 hours a day while hazardous conditions persist. In an emergency, call 911.

  The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for Charleston County, including downtown Charleston, until 4:00 pm.

The storm system caused by Hurricane Joaquin, combined with high tide on Saturday afternoon, will result in significant flooding. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley says that even when the tide recedes, the rain will continue to create an unprecedented weather event.

Harvey Teal of Columbia is one of about 300 bottle collectors in South Carolina.  It’s a hobby that’s centuries old, and some bottles can be very valuable, as well as being pleasing to the eye and revealing part of the history of the times they were made in.   Teal tells us about the rare bottles from the South Carolina Dispensary, the state monopoly on liquor set up by Gov. Ben Tillman in 1892, and about some of the unusual places and lengths collectors can go to, to discover these relics of cultures past.

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse on Sunday

Sep 25, 2015

  On Sunday, September 27, a total lunar eclipse will be visible in South Carolina’s night sky. Beginning at around 9 pm and peaking just before 11 pm, the eclipse is a rare Supermoon Eclipse. South Carolina Public Radio’s Laura Hunsberger sat down with Matthew Whitehouse, Observatory Manager for the SC State Museum, to talk about what makes this eclipse so special. For more information visit

Preventing Suicide

Sep 24, 2015

  South Carolina ranks 26th among the states in the number of suicides. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention works to lower the rate of suicide. One way it raises awareness is the Out of the Darkness walks, a series of which will take place around the state in October and November. In this South Carolina Focus report, AFSP representatives Helen Pridgen and Dennis Gillan, and suicidologist Dr. Ron Maris, offer information on suicide’s causes, and prevention.

  Wild hogs have been a problem for farmers and others for decades in South Carolina and most other states. The damage they cause nationally to crops, landscaping, competing wildlife and natural resources amounts to $1.5 billion a year, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. South Carolina farmer Donnie Wakefield tells us how increasing herds, or sounders, of wild pigs cause $30-50,000 in damage annually to his operation, and USDA representative Noel Myers explains why the numbers of these invasive creatures are growing.

"America After Charleston" host Gwen Ifill
Michael O'Bryon

It’s been three months since a lone white gunman killed nine worshipers at a Bible study at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. Tonight (9/21) at 9 p.m., PBS and ETV will air “America After Charleston,” a town hall meeting taped this past Saturday at Charleston’s Circular Congregational Church. Moderator Gwen Ifill, co-anchor of PBS News Hour, and two of the town hall’s panelists, NAACP President Cornell Brooks and S.C. State Rep. Jenny Horne, offer thoughts on the discussion and the importance of coming together to listen to others.

Football players in action

  Among the familiar sounds of football season, along with referee’s whistles and marching bands, is the voice of the play-by-play announcer, broadcasting all the action for audiences of fans. Though Mike Legg is only in his second year with The Citadel, he’s a 15-year veteran of calling sports events. Jimmie Coggins has been behind the microphone for Newberry College since 1982. Both men are hard-core sports followers, and they talk about what makes a good play-by-play man, and share some memorable moments calling games.

  In the past year, 38 sick or injured sea turtles have been rescued and rehabilitated at the sea turtle hospital operated by the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, the only such facility in the state. In this SC Focus, we follow Turtle Rescue Program Director Kelly Thorvalson on a tour of the facility and learn from her and public relations manager Kate Ditloff about the planned expansion of this facility, which is in need of more space to handle the increasing number of injured sea turtles being brought to the hospital. The facility has an excellent record of healing injured turtles, but the iconic reptiles still face many problems in a changing environment.


  More than $2 million is lost to fraud in South Carolina every year, says Juliana Harris of the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs. The department tracks scams in the state, and receives 3,000 to 4,000 reports of these crimes each year. Harris lists some of the more common scams, how consumers can spot them, and how people can avoid being taken in by scammers.

In this edition of SC Focus, Russ McKinney takes a look at the state’s newest economic engine, the S.C. Inland Port.

Race car driver
Parker Anderson

  For more than half a century, one of NASCAR’s greatest races, the Southern 500, was held on Labor Day weekend. In 2003 the race was moved, and for the next dozen years was held on various days from March to November. NASCAR fans are now celebrating the return of the Bojangles Southern 500 to its traditional home slot, as this year’s race will be held once again on the weekend before Labor Day. Some of those happy about the return include Gov. Nikki Haley, NASCAR drivers Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick (the defending Southern 500 champion) and super fan William McElveen.


Larry Doby, 1953
Bowman Gum [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  Camden native Larry Doby was the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the American League, joining the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, just 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Indians recently honored Doby with a statue outside Progressive Stadium in Cleveland. Camden is justifiably proud of Doby – who was the first black player on a World Series Championship team – as is evidenced by the comments of Camden Archives and Museum Director Catherine Richardson and Tom Didato, sports editor with the Camden Chronicle Independent.

USS Hornet (CV-8) with USS Gwin (DD-433) during Doolittle Raid 1942.

  In 1945, the Japanese surrendered to end World War II on Sept. 2, officially observed as V-J Day in the United States. But few people realize that the road to victory began with America’s first victory – at least, psychologically – over Japan: the Doolittle Raid, in which 16 B-25 bombers launched from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet bombed Tokyo in the first strike back at Japan after Pearl Harbor. James Scott, author of the new book “Target Tokyo,” talks about the raid, its affect both on America’s morale and Japan’s sense of invincibility, and how South Carolina played a part in this historic event: the raiders were first assembled and volunteered for this dangerous and daring mission in Columbia.

Drink Small

  He was born in Bishopville but has resided in Columbia since 1955, entertaining thousands of audiences with his mix of humor and blues (and more) music. He’s one of a kind. He’s Drink Small, the “Blues Doctor.” The uniqueness that has made him a state treasure has now gone national. After six decades, numerous albums and travels around the country and the world, the National Endowment of the Arts has named Small a National Heritage Fellow, its most prestigious award in the folk arts. At a celebration in Small’s honor by the City of Columbia and the S.C. Arts Commission, we hear the Blues Doctor rouse an admiring and appreciative crowd with his music and the humorous sayings he calls “Drink-isms.”

  The number of women’s colleges has declined severely over the past 50 years, from 230 to 45. A variety of causes is blamed, from more acceptance at coed colleges to some being located in small, remote towns. Beth Dinndorf, president of Columbia College, tells how her school has defied the trend and talks about how women’s colleges can compete and stay relevant in the 21st century. Columbia College student Laura Mauer tells us that she doesn’t miss the distractions of men on campus and lists some of the advantages that she sees in women’s colleges.

A coyote

  Wildlife does not recognize borders, and so in 1978, a non-native species, welcomed or not, moved into the Palmetto State – the coyote. It has not only caused problems for hunters ( where it has affected the deer population) and livestock farmers (where it preys on cattle, goats and more), but also has moved into cities, causing concerns among people not used to seeing these wild predators. Jay Butfiloski of the S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources gives advice about how to deal with these furry beasts, whether it’s trapping or hunting in rural areas, or making urban settings less hospitable for them.

  It’s National Farmer’s Market Week, and, an online consumer health site, has named the South Carolina state Farmer’s Market the number 5 community-oriented farmer’s market in the nation. We talk with market Manager Brad Boozer and vendor Jason McCarter about what makes the market a top 5 market, and how it attracts wholesalers from as far away as New York to the Midlands of South Carolina to buy produce.