COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/WIS) - Gov. Nikki Haley said 14 people have lost their lives since the weather emergency began and stressed the need for motorists to pay attention to barricades and signs warning of road closures.
"I cannot stress enough to the citizens of South Carolina: What we are starting to see is people are starting to move barriers and drive through them, and so other people are driving them. People are starting to drive around barriers. This is not safe."
Haley said roads are being closed so that crews can make sure they are structurally sound. Haley said roads that have been open as of Tuesday could be closed by Wednesday until inspections have been performed.
"We are doing this to make sure you don't travel on a that road we haven't fully inspected, yet," she said. "We want to make sure every bridge and every road you put your car on is safe for the good of yourself and your family."
Haley said state troopers on the road have worked 4,367 service calls, of which 1,843 have been traffic collisions.
Haley began her Tuesday press briefing by saying God had smiled on the state because the sun was out. But the sunshine is only helping reveal a continuing battle against floodwaters that are moving towards the coast that could cause additional evacuations.
"For us, we still have to be cautious," she said. "The next 36 to 48 hours are going to be a time that we need to continue to be careful. Just because there is no rain and just because the sun is out, we are now looking at downstreams, waters, and other areas that are going to be affected."
Haley said water from the Midlands is beginning to move into the Lowcountry and that the towns they are watching over the next 36 closely include Conway, Georgetown, Jamestown, Effingham, Orangeburg and Williamsburg.
"Those are the ones we see the most critical need right now that we are watching," she said.
Florence, Richland, Marlboro and Horry Counties could face possible evacuations over the next 48 hours, she said. Haley said her team is watching the situation minute by minute from on the ground and in the air.
"Those lists will change, as the water flows, we will continue to watch that" she warned. "The rivers we are focused on at this time are the Edisto River, the the Santee River, the Black River, the Waccamaw and the Lynches." Haley said all are being closely monitored, and while all are showing some stage of flooding, none has crested.
She said Kingstree is closed, a sign that evacuation requests issued late Monday were successful.
The SCDOT reported 469 closures as of noon on Tuesday, and 163 of those are bridges. Power outages are back to normal levels, she said.
Ten dams have failed statewide, a number that includes three in Lexington County, five in Richland County, and one in each in Lee and Aiken Counties. Engineers are monitoring dams that may be at threat of failure and National Guard members are using sandbags to reinforce them where necessary.
The number of SCDOT maintenance workers has increased from 1,000 to 1,400 with 200 engineers to check road and bridge safety and determine where repairs are necessary. There are 268 Highway Patrolmen on the ground, in addition to various law enforcement officers from multiple agencies.
"South Carolina has once again proven that we are strong and we are resilient," she said. "We are still in prayer mode, we are still in the fact that the next 36 to 48 hours is going to be volatile, so what we will tell you is don't let the sunshine fool you, but we are prepared."
Haley declined to give an estimate of the dollar amount of damage.
"That's not my concern right now," she said. My concern is we're following the processes we need to with FEMA, my concern is we've got good communications with the counties, my concern is we've got the best people on the ground to do assessments, my concern is that we've asked for FEMA's legal team to come in to make sure we are looking at every t crossed and every i dotted for all of those contracts that need to be done. And my appreciation is that the Feds and FEMA have been extremely helpful in us moving forward. And so that's what I want people to know. Let's get off of the dollars and let's focus on the recovery, because that's what all of this team is focused on."
Haley said 28 damage assessment teams are on the ground, mostly in the Upstate where waters have already receded, and will make their way through every county.
FEMA is assessing damage from the air on Tuesday, and will join state teams on the ground on Wednesday.
A FEMA representative said the counties currently designated as eligible for individual aid are Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland and Williamsburg.
Counties designated as eligible for public infrastructure aid include Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Clarendon, Georgetown, Horry, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter and Williamsburg.
Haley said more counties will likely be added to the list.
FEMA typically pays 75 percent of damage costs, but some will qualify for 100 percent, Haley said.
Anyone who has suffered damage should contact FEMA at (800) 621-3362 or go online at disasterassistance.gov. The hearing impaired should call (800) 462-7585.
Everyone may not be eligible until more counties are added to the list. For those who are eligible, FEMA may be able to provide housing repair or replacement, disaster unemployment assistance or disaster counseling. The Small Business Administration may also be able to help businesses with low-interest loans for businesses.
Haley said assessment will take several days, since there are some counties teams can't even get into, yet.