092117 Hurricane Irma: Early estimate puts county damage at $3 million
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Damaged walkways at Litchfield Beach at the height of the storm.

Hurricane Irma: Early estimate puts county damage at $3 million

By Nikki Best
Coastal Observer

It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Irma blew through Georgetown County and a damage assessment has not been released.

A damage assessment is lot of paperwork and that takes time. Jackie Broach, the county’s public information officer, said it should be completed soon.

“We’re still working out some details, including whether FEMA will count certain items toward our total,” she said in an email. The county has to account for every item used or received, and every penny spent during an emergency operation. On top of that are estimates of the costs to repair damages caused by the storm.

“The big item in question right now is whether beach erosion will be counted and we don’t know yet what the result will be. We are submitting information to the state as it becomes available and have thus far submitted approximately $3 million in damages to public property, including beach erosion.”

Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Sept. 6 based on the storm’s forecasted path. President Trump approved the state’s emergency declaration the next day. Some may believe the governor’s action was premature, but the county emergency manager, Sam Hodge, said you can’t please everyone. “When you’re dealing with a weather event, it’s not cut and dry. You can’t predict five days out exactly where a storm is going,” he said.

The president’s action authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts. According to S.C. Emergency Management Division, FEMA is also authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide, at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures include direct federal assistance and are provided at 75 percent federal funding.

Damage assessors go out and look at the damage on structures and then go back and crunch those numbers, Hodge said. Then they get all that information into the system. “How much sand do we have on the road, how much debris is on the beach, how many hours did the county and municipalities put in,” he said. “It’s all the little things you have to do on the state and federal level.”

The county assesses damages to public property and to individual property. Included in the public category would be any county-owned items such as beach walkways, Broach said. Clearing roads and debris removal also falls into the public category. Private individual damage could include structural damage to homes or private walkways. “We are confident there is enough public damage to receive FEMA reimbursement, but are unsure if individual damage will meet the threshold,” she said.

County officials met Tuesday to discuss the progress of the assessment. Most of the damage assessed is on the Waccamaw Neck. “We anticipate the assessment will be done by next week,” Broach said.

Georgetown County schools saw little damage to its facilities from the storm, Superintendent Randy Dozier said. There were widespread power outages in some parts of the county, and that led to “some food issues” when the refrigerators went down, he said.

“To be on the fringe and not the storm, God bless those people who had the storm,” Dozier said.

Schools were closed for two days. Those will be made up on Oct. 27 and March 30.

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