October 3 marks two years since historic amounts of rain began to fall on South Carolina, bringing devastation to Richland County that claimed nine lives and changed many more forever.
The effects of the October 2015 flood are still visible in some areas of the County but so too are signs of progress, resilience and a return to normalcy for those affected by the natural disaster.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since that tragic day became a significant chapter in the history of Richland County,” said Richland County Council Chair Joyce Dickerson, District 2. “I understand the process has been long – longer than anyone would want it to be for the families and individuals whose lives have been uprooted – but I am encouraged by the progress made, the dedication and empathy of our staff and our commitment to ensuring we do everything in this complicated process right the first time.”
At the onset of flood recovery efforts, emergency officials estimated it would take four to five years for Richland County to rebuild from the destruction that occurred in just two days. Less than halfway through the multiyear recovery process, the County notes the following milestones:
- Richland County Council established the Blue Ribbon Committee comprised of homeowners, community leaders and municipality representatives who continue to meet regularly and make recommendations to County Council about flood recovery needs and priorities.
- The county developed rcgov.us/floodrecovery, an online hub dedicated to providing documentation and information about the flood recovery process, including funding opportunities, quarterly performance reports and intermediate and long-term recovery outlines.
- Staff pursued federal aid, and in February 2016, the federal government announced it will provide $23.5 million to Richland County, then announced an additional $7.25 million in May 2017.
- Collaborative efforts between the County, the United Way of the Midlands and the Midlands Flood Recovery Group led to 158 storm-damaged homes being repaired or rebuilt for residents, at no cost.
- Richland County held 24 public meetings at locations throughout the County to garner public feedback and provide information about the flood recovery process. These meetings continue, with two slated for this month.
- Richland County staff went door to door, informing affected homeowners in person funding opportunities were available and encouraging homeowners to register for assistance.
- In August 2017, FEMA approved the County’s application to purchase and raze 49 damaged properties and pay the participating homeowners pre-flood value for their properties. The County is awaiting federal approval for the purchase of 21 additional properties.
Richland County’s flood recovery program has been lauded nationally for its transparency and public inclusion. The State of Georgia has requested assistance in modeling its public outreach methodology after Richland County’s, and in May, Flood Recovery Chief Mike King was invited to Washington, D.C., to address U.S. Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management Agency staff about Richland County’s recovery procedures.
“After the flood, County staff was given a single mandate by County Council: Ensure no resident drops through the cracks,” King said. “We have been very fortunate to team with so many incredible groups and individuals who have made it possible for us to ensure our mandate is met daily. While it has been a long road to recovery, and there is still much work to do, we are motivated and honored to be a small part of the tremendous ongoing recovery efforts in Richland County.”
For more information, visit rcgov.us/floodrecovery.
Feature photo: Betty Shelton (center) is welcomed back to her flood-damaged home that was repaired through a partnership between Richland County, United Way of the Midlands and volunteer organizations.