Secretary of Homeland Security, "Your United States Government is here to assist"

Homeland Security Secretary tours state flood damage

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - It's been nine days since South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley declared a State of Emergency, and four days since the event was declared a federal disaster.

Friday, Gov. Haley was joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who got a first hand look at flood damage caused throughout the state. Johnson urged area residents to follow directives from state and local leaders, warning, "this is not over."

The governor listed four counties of concern as officials continue to monitor rising water levels.

Those counties are Charleston, Dorchester, Williamsburg, and Georgetown, which will continued to be closely monitored over the next 72 hours. Haley said state and county leaders have employed teams to go into affected communities, going door to door, urging resident to evacuate.

According to the National Weather Service, areas along the Edisto, Santee, and Black rivers continue to experience moderate to major flooding.

On Thursday, confusion ensued for residents in Georgetown County after rumors of a mandatory evacuation. Haley responded Friday by saying, "If they knock on your door, please leave."

Haley stressed the state is not out of the woods yet, but state officials have a clearer view of the damage that's been done.

More than 3,800 members of the National Guard remain on the ground in South Carolina, completing 210 missions in 18 counties.

FEMA assessment crews have already inspected more than 2,000 homes damaged by the historic flood, with more than $4 million in relief already approved.

Haley also encouraged small business owners and farmers to apply for FEMA assistance, and can call 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or visit

"This is damage at levels I've just never seen before," she said.

Secretary Johnson of Homeland Security added, "Your United States Government is here to assist your governor and to assist you in the recovery of this disaster."

Haley said there are currently 23 shelters statewide, with 11 more to come to areas including Dorchester, Williamsburg, Berkeley and Horry counties.Of those already open, there are 521 occupants.

"We've looked through peoples homes that are damaged. I flew over some areas yesterday, and to look at Kingstree, to look at Givhans Ferry and all that, there are no words to describe," Haley said during a news conference on Friday.

"These are boats in yards, there are can't even see the houses. These are areas that are just devastating."

The governor asked those willing to help not to send resources to area shelters, which are already full, but to instead donate time to help neighboring communities remove debris.

Volunteers can also call 1-888-585-9643 for information on areas in greatest need of donations.

The Department of Transportation will begin its debris pick up Monday, and have asked that residents sort items in the below categories:

  • Vegetative debris – Tree branches, leaves, logs & plants. DO NOT BAG this material.
  • Construction/Demolition material – Carpet, drywall, furniture, lumber, mattresses, plumbing materials, shingles and tiles.
  • Appliances – Air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, stoves, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers.
  • Electronics – Computers, televisions, stereos, radios and other devices with an electrical cord.
  • Household Hazardous Waste – Cleaning supplies, lawn chemicals, oils, oil-based paints and stains, pesticides

Debris should also be placed at the edge of the property line on the curb for pickup.

The governor also said crews are assessing damaged roads and will prioritize repairs in order of need.

Damaged roads will be divided into three categories:

  • Those with immediate need
  • Those that will be completed in two to four weeks
  • Those that will take longer to fix

Haley added that there have been 810 water rescues during the flood disaster, some of which happened in Georgetown on Thursday. She said there have been 17 dam failures, and officials are monitoring 84 more.

"Underneath that water is the South Carolina we remember," Haley said.

At one point during the conference, Haley showed a little girl's picture.

"I want to leave you with this because there's a lot of people hurting out there right now and going through a lot," Haley said as she took out a picture."But this sweet girl, Emily, who I don't know sent this drawing. She has special needs, but drew this and it says,'We know things are tough right now but know that we are thinking about you. I hope my picture cheers you up.' So I show that because I hope that everybody gets cheered up by Emily and her pictures, and what we're seeing is everybody wants to do something and everybody wants to help in some way and even little Emily found her way to help."

Copyright WCSC 2015.  All rights reserved.