sc news

Summer Tourism Season: Reality vs. Perception

May 5, 2016
North Myrtle Beach, SC.
David Tribble

South Carolina destinations are set for another record summer this year, following records in both 2014 and 2015. The rebound comes at a good time, as October's flood caused a $40 million decrease in revenue for the tourism industry, including losses to golf courses, restaurants, conventions, and more. Cooper McKim speaks with experts about how tourism rebounded in South Carolina after the flood.

  South Carolina has a reputation for conserving its natural resources.  And sometimes that conflicts with interests of various business sectors.  A good example recently was the combined effort by our state's coastal communities to reject offshore drilling.  Our next guest's organization says that often though, the business community and conservationists work together.  Especially when there's a tax benefit.

Mike Switzer interviews Erin Knight, Land Trust Director with Upstate Forever in Greenville, SC.

  We are all aware of the tainted water supply issues facing the residents of Flint, Michigan.  Fortunately, South Carolina is generally blessed with some of the best ground water in the country – good tasting and free from hardness-causing minerals and natural contaminants.  However, that doesn’t mean our state is exempt from concerns about lead, chemical and biological hazards in the water.  These are the kinds of problems related to infrastructure, agriculture, or industrial activities in and around populated areas…and can happen anywhere.

Backhoes and bulldozers prepare the ground for new business locations in Myrtle Beach.  The area has been named one of fastest metropolitan statistical areas in the nation, drawing both business and residents to Horry County.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

    The many attractions of Myrtle Beach have led to the area’s being named by some as the second fastest growing metropolitan area in the country. Between 2000 and 2014, Horry County’s population grew from just under 200,000 to 300,000, a 50 percent growth in just 15 years.

Alexandra Olgin

Farmer Jamie Burgess has cut the cord to his home internet, landline phone and cable. After back to back seasons of bad weather and low crop prices he needs to cut costs wherever possible. 

Floods drowned nearly his entire soybean crop in Williamsburg County last October, preceded by a drought that devastated much of his summer corn. A few bad crops in a row meant no income. 

“It has put us in real bad shape,” he said. “It’s just real hard on us. Real stressful.”

  When the largest demographic group in the country, baby boomers, began moving into retirement mode at the beginning of this century, that segment of the population started receiving a lot of attention.  Several years ago, a Harris Poll identified four types of these new retirees, ranging from youthful and optimistic to worried struggler.  Our next guest has been working with these groups for many years and says the categories are indeed real.  Which one is yours?

A Town Hall meeting for City of Columbia and Richland County residents in October 2015.
City of Columbia.

  Richland County’s Andrea Bolling is South Carolina’s Floodplain Manager of the Year. The award highlights her work since the October flood as well as the efforts of Richland County and her colleagues at work in Floodplain Management across the state.

  Even if you don’t have a cold, sneezing, sniffling and coughing can be commonly heard in South Carolina because it’s a plant – and thus pollen – filled state. That means allergies. In this report, allergist Dr. David Amrol says spring, though noted for the pollen released by blooming plants, is not the only season for allergies, because some plants (such as grass) release pollen in summer, and others, like ragweed, spread their misery in the fall.

  During South Carolina’s 1,000-year flood event, City of Columbia Water Works Superintendent Clint Shealy said the water treatment center at the Columbia Canal was treating very “difficult, muddy, turbid water.”  Heavy rains caused a flushing effect, which pushed leaves and decaying vegetation into the river.

At the House in a Box warehouse, volunteers and grant-funded employees work together to serve flood-impacted families.
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

  A grant from the US Department of Labor provides a chance for people to get back to work by placing long-term unemployed and dislocated workers with flood recovery agencies in the Midlands.

The Skywheel, Myrtle Beach’s newest landmark.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  Since it opened in 2011, the Myrtle Beach Skywheel has become a fixture of the beach town’s skyline. Twenty stories tall, it has become a landmark by which visitors and locals alike navigate the beachfront area. In today’s story we talk with two representatives who reveal what makes the wheel – which they regard as an “observation wheel” rather than an entertainment ride like smaller ferris wheels – so special. Among its appealing features are the enclosed gondolas, air conditioned for comfort regardless of the weather. Plus, for people, and ocean, watching, the wheel has no equal.

Dale Longacre reviews with neighbor Howard Bickley the height of the water on their neighborhood entrance booth as they perched atop a planter preparing to swim out against a strong tide that swept Bickley’s car into deep water during October’s flood.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

October’s historic floods left property and homes ruined for hundreds in South Carolina. For some it was worse: several victims drowned, trapped in their cars. Howard Bickley was nearly one of them. At 6 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, he found himself trapped in a sinking car after unexpectedly encountering a wall of water from a dam break nearby. Bickley remained calm and waited for the water to rise in his car to equal the pressure from outside.

Williamsburg Temporary Emergency Room Opens

Apr 25, 2016
Rebecca Bradford

After several months, Williamsburg has a much needed temporary emergency room. The hospital, approximately 80 miles north of Charleston was forced to shut its doors nearly three months ago after water damage from the October flooding made much of the building unusable. 

The temporary ER is made up of four connected trailers, all with a different function. The two modular buildings on either side of the main hallway are where medical procedures will take place.  

When the flood hit last October, Joanna Derrick wanted to find a way to help flood victims. She posted a picture of her husband's army-grade truck to Facebook and offered help. She ended up salvaging apartments with hundreds of volunteers helping who had
Joanna Derrick/Facebook

When the flood hit last October, Joanna Derrick wanted to find a way to help flood victims. She posted a picture of her husband's army-grade truck to Facebook and offered help. She ended up salvaging apartments in the Willow Street Complex in St. Andrews with hundreds of volunteers helping who had seen her Facebook posts. By the end of the week, they cleared out all 123 units.  She says it wouldn't have been possible without social media, "it would have taken too long, this was such a time-sensitive thing. We were in-and-out of that complex. There were 23 buildings. It's giant!

The River Rocks Music Festival is normally held at River Front Park in downtown Columbia.  Event organizers would drive across the Columbia Canal to transport items for the festival. During October’s historic rain event, the site was flooded, the performa
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

  The River Rocks Music Festival is in search of a new home.  The annual event serves as a fundraiser for the River Keeper, a grass-root nonprofit that works to protect the Broad, Saluda and Congaree rivers. The family-friendly event is normally held at River Front Park, but October’s historic rain event destroyed the site’s wooden stage, flooded the field, and blew a 60-foot hole in the adjacent Columbia Canal. River Front Park reopened to the public in March, but the concert area is stilled closed. Festival organizers are on the hunt, once again, for a new location.

The empty end of the Columbia Canal, which lost part of Columbia’s water supply when its levee breached as a result of the October 2015 floods in the Midlands.   At the far end, the temporary rock dam that holds water in the rest of the canal can be
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Following a serious breach in its levee caused by October’s flood, the water contained in the Columbia Canal emptied into the Congaree River. Thanks to diligent work by city engineers and help from the South Carolina National Guard, a temporary dam was built above the breach which has allowed most of the canal to fill with water. And, the city’s water supply has operated normally since late October, with no dip in water quality even immediately after the flood.

Scientists Study How Low Salt Levels Can Change The Marsh

Apr 15, 2016
The study of the persistent low salinity levels in the North Inlet Estuary is part of a series of research the University of South Carolina has funded to examine how nature and human communities were impacted by the October 2015 flood.
Alexandra Olgin/SC Public Radio

  Marshes along the South Carolina coast have been less salty following an influx of rain water late last year. Low levels of salinity for a sustained period of time can change the homes and breeding grounds for fish and other animals. 

Scientists at the University of South Carolina are studying how this temporary environmental change may affect the ecology of the marsh. Research Specialist Paul Kenny slips a small metal measuring device into the water.

An House in a Box employee and a volunteer load a couch into a family’s moving truck.
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

  When the October floods hit, thousands were displaced across the state. Almost 7 months later, hundreds of people are still waiting for the chance to go home again. The House in a Box Program offers help to those who are just now moving home.

Local Artists Interpret the Flood

Apr 13, 2016
Screenshot from "WATER ME," an interactive video game submitted to Indie Grits by creators Cecil Decker, Chris Johnson, Danny Oakes, James Owens, and Michelle Skipper.
Courtesy of the artists

  This weekend an entire festival is dedicated to creative interpretations of October's historic flood by local artists. It's called Indie Grits, which typically celebrates southern culture in general, but organizers realized there hasn't yet been an artistic response to the flood. Six months after the disaster, fifteen local artists are coming together to tell stories of healing and resiliency through film, video games, music, and more.

Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson questions attorneys Wednesday at the Charleston County courthouse before he approved a delay in Dylann Roof’s murder trial.
Brad Nettles/Post & Courier / Courtesy of the Post & Courier, Charleston, SC

    A South Carolina judge has delayed the state death-penalty trial of a man accused of killed nine black parishioners at the Charleston Emanuel AME church last June.

The murder trial of Dylann Roof originally scheduled for July, is now slated to start January 17th. Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson granted the defense six more months to complete a psychiatric evaluation of the defendant, but ordered a monthly report on its progress

Attorney for several of the victims’ families, Andy Savage said most understand the reason for the delay.

A worker spray paints a shelf as one of many repairs to the home of Rob and Lisa Echols of Columbia. Their home was flooded when the Semmes dam at Fort Jackson failed during the record-setting rains of early October, 2015.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

On the night of the flood, Rob Echols remembers hearing rushing water outside his house. At 5:20 am, he went downstairs and saw two feet of water in his dining room with more quickly rushing in.  He gathered his five children and two dogs, preparing to find higher ground, until he saw the car floating down the driveway.  "So, by that point, we knew we needed to get out of here. And the walls started shakin' and the floors started poppin," he says.

Rita Shipman, Director of Operations for the South Beltline-Gills Creek Community Relief Foundation, greets visitors to the warehouse each day.
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

  The South Beltline-Gills Creek Community Relief Foundation started as an initiative of neighbors helping neighbors. Now they have expanded to serve flood-impacted residents across the Midlands.

Disaster Recovery, Three Years Apart

Apr 8, 2016
The levee breach at the Columbia Canal on Oct. 5, 2015.
Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago / U.S. Air National Guard

  Contractor fraud, meager insurance pay-outs, loan trouble. These are all factors that made recovery difficult for another state that went through a similar disaster. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy wiped out the coast of New Jersey, ranking as the second costliest storm in American history. Cooper McKim speaks with the Executive Director of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group, Sue Marticek, about lessons she's learned from years of dealing with disaster recovery.

Cary Lake Dam in Columbia was one of 16 in the county to breach or fail during last year’s historic rain event and flood.  Researchers at the College of Charleston say growth and development may have contributed to some of those failures.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

  Before last year’s historic rain event and flood, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) contacted associate professor Norm Levine at the College of Charleston to help create flood maps and subsequently organize and identify dams across the state.

SC VOADs can muck, gut, and dry-out an owner-occupied home for about $1,000.
Vincent Kolb-Lubo/SC Public Radio

    South Carolina volunteer organizations active in disaster (VOAD)  have been concerned from the beginning with the dangers and extent of mold.

South Carolina Public Radio’s Vince Kolb-Lugo spoke with two SC VOADs about what they are doing to help low-income homeowners get back into their homes.

More on this story.

These bees have filled some of the beeswax cells with honey.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  Beekeepers are proliferating in South Carolina. While for a few it’s a living, for most people it’s a hobby, with home-grown honey as a benefit. Kieth Henry of Ridgeway in Fairfield County is one of thousands of hobbyists in the state.

The Life Pod.
Vincent Kolb-Lubo/SC Public Radio

Engineer Mike Weeks fused two geodesic domes together with the idea of creating a recreational shelter for outdoorsmen. His idea soon evolved into Life Pod, a small shelter containing a bed, toilet, shower, and mini kitchen that can be moved on a jet-ski trailer. When the inventor hooked up to brainstorm with Tom Ledbetter, an associate vice president at Midlands Technical College, the two became excited at the possibilities the Life Pod may offer: shelter for the homeless, victims of natural disasters, minimal housing for fast-moving Millenials, and more.

Maps from show drought statuses for South Carolina in July of 2015 (28 counties were upgraded to moderate state of drought) and October 5, 2015 (hundreds of acres of farmland sit in waters left by heavy rains and flood).
SC Department of Natural Resources

  Carolina Agri-Power, LLC is a tractor and farm equipment dealer in Orangeburg, SC. General Sales Manager Jimmy Gleason says he noticed a decline in sales the summer of 2015. The state was in a drought and farmers were losing their crops.  Gleason would continue to see sales drop throughout the fall and winter, after the state’s historic 1,000-year flood.

Ashby and Urbie West, father and son, have been farming together for seven years.
Alexandra Olgin/SC Public Radio

  The West family has been growing fruits and vegetables in Beaufort for more than 100 years. Fifth generation Urbie West says the farm has been through many changes, and tough years, but last fall may have been the hardest.

West and other farmers are just starting to get back in the field for the spring season after a tough fall and winter. The October 2015 floods caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the state’s agriculture industry. But as the land has started to dry out and the sun has come out farmers are starting to get back to planting again.

  In this week’s edition of State House Week, Russ McKinney takes a look at how some of the state’s small, rural counties are struggling financially. The House and Senate were on an Easter furlough this week.