A hurricane hits. A flood rushes in. The skies return to normal. Recovery begins. In the last three years, we have seen three major storm events in the south Atlantic region of the country, with various levels of impact to South Carolina. For everyone affected, recovery begins immediately after the sun comes out. For those aiding in response, like the Charleston District, the response comes in various forms over time.
Most recently, Hurricanes Irma and Maria barreled through the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida, leaving millions without power and thousands without homes. As part of the response efforts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been restoring power, assessing structures, placing temporary roofing and many other critical missions assigned by FEMA. The Charleston District sent 13 people already to these affected areas to conduct infrastructure assessment and manage the Corps’ safety program.
“We have had a team on the ground since right after Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico,” said Michael Hind, chief of emergency management. “Our teams have been alongside our division commander, Brig. Gen. Diana Holland, ensuring that our missions are completed. We have aided more than a thousand people through our Blue Roof Program, which provides a temporary roof for homes until they can be repaired properly.”
Initial response to those hurricanes was quick. Sometimes initial response happens to a different degree, such as when the District surveyed the federal beaches of Folly Beach and the Grand Strand within two days of the storms to determine how much sand was lost. The District also performed assessments after Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew in 2015 and 2016. Due to the justification, funding decisions, design work, construction contract acquisition and dredge scheduling needed to put a rehabilitation project in place, the initial response of surveying is all the public will see take place for a period of time. Once the data is analyzed, emergency funding can be requested. This process takes time, which is why the recent rehabilitation of Surfside, Garden City and North Myrtle Beaches, completed a month and a half ahead of schedule, was actually paid for in large part by emergency funds from Matthew.
“That’s why we renourish beaches in the first place, so that they can withstand impacts from storms and still protect the people and property behind the dunes until they can be repaired,” said Hind. “It is unfortunate that the beaches eroded, but they performed their purpose and we’re doing everything possible to bring them back to the condition necessary to continue to prevent future damage to infrastructure.”
The upcoming rehabilitations in 2018 for Folly Beach and Myrtle Beach will be paid for in part from emergency funds to offset erosion resulting from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.
The District has already tackled these crucial missions, as well as other response efforts that are lesser-seen, such as the 400 digital maps created by the District’s GIS team in less than a day that showed Puerto Rico’s homes, hospitals, schools, buildings, and more, that could be used to navigate the area and record data.
As the Charleston District’s thoughts continue to go out to those affected by each of these storms, our emergency management division stands ready to respond, but hopes not to need to again for a long time, as hurricane season officially ends on November 30th.