Gov. Haley requests major disaster declaration after winter storm

Published: Mar. 4, 2014 at 10:05 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2014 at 10:37 PM EST
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Crews working to remove fallen tree from Colleton Co. power lines. (Source: Julie Ann Kinard)
Crews working to remove fallen tree from Colleton Co. power lines. (Source: Julie Ann Kinard)

COLUMBIA, SC - Gov. Nikki Haley requested a major disaster declaration for 21 counties in South Carolina as a result of recent severe winter weather.

According to the request, damage in South Carolina totaled $55 million. This included $4.3 million sustained by the state, $23.4 million by the counties and $27.7 million from electric cooperatives.

The weather from Winter Storm Pax occurred between Feb. 10 & 14 and dumped freezing rain, sleet and snow across the state. Haley declared a State of Emergency on Feb. 11, 2014, for the entire state.

In her letter to President Barack Obama, Haley reported that snowfall totals ranged from less than an inch in southern counties to as many as ten inches in the Upstate. Ice accumulation totals ranged from .1 to 1.25 inches, with ice coating "critical infrastructure" and causing "widespread vegetative debris issues."

Power outages affected 348,000 customers, the letter stated, adding that some were without power for more than a week.

Haley said all 46 county governments experienced delays or closures for up to four days. Other storm related expenses listed in the request included 4,941 calls for service answered by the state Highway Patrol and security missions for power crews supported by the SCDNR, SLED and other agencies.

The state's Department of Transportation had 1,350 maintenance employees involved in road operations that included spreading more than 17,000 tons of salt and 7,100 tons of sand. SCDOT sprayed 73,651 gallons of calcium chloride and 1.4 million gallons of salt brine throughout the state.

Debris clearance and removal operations are ongoing and will continue for more than 60 days in some areas, Haley said.

"The effects of the storm were strongest in some of the most economically disadvantaged areas in the State," Haley said. "The percentage of people below the poverty line in six of the hardest hit counties averages around 25 percent, making community recovery from the widespread debris and power outages more difficult."

"In addition to debris on private property, including homes and businesses, individuals and families who went without power for several days found that the food in their refrigerators and freezers spoiled," Haley said.

"In 19 of the most impacted counties, there are over 260,986 individual food stamp recipients, many of whom with benefits had food that was spoiled due to the loss of power. Community recovery efforts have also been impacted by the wages lost by hourly employees whose workplaces were closed due to the storm or due to power outages," Haley said.

Haley's request for public assistance funding would cover Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Berkeley, Calhoun, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Dillon, Dorchester, Edgefield, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Marion, Orangeburg, Saluda, Sumter and Williamsburg Counties. Haley did not rule out the possibility that the total cost would be even higher or would involve additional counties.

"We anticipate that, as additional damage information is received, there are other counties that will qualify for Public Assistance, and we will likely be requesting those counties at a later time," she said.

Statewide, Haley estimated, damages and response costs sustained during the severe winter storm reach more than $12 per capita, "greatly exceeding the established statewide per capita indicator of $1.39, indicating that the disaster is of the severity and magnitude to warrant Federal disaster assistance."

If approved, the state could receive a 75-25 federal-state cost share to recoup costs expended by the state and counties during emergency and recovery operations, according to Douglass Mayer, Haley's communications director.

The last time a major disaster declaration occurred in South Carolina was in 2006 by Gov. Mark Sanford following the December, 2005, winter storm.

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