LAURINBURG — County Chairman Whit Gibson was present at many of the Emergency Operation Center meetings during the past week, and was fullof nothing but praise for allof those who worked to keep residents informed and safe during and afterHurricane Florence.
“I am impressed with all the agencies, local and out of state — they were so cooperative, every one was working together,” said Gibson.
He admits and remembers being around during Hurricane Hazel, a storm that hit the state hard many years ago.
“It was devastating in 1954 (and) Florence was just as a difficult storm at Hazel,” said Gibson, “Our local agencies exhausted all emergency personnel, they did a great job.”
Gibson said in most situations like this there are challenges, but the Instant Management team handled things smoothly.
“A team like theirs normally has 30 people — they had 14 to 15. We only experienced one (hurricane), they probably manage up to 30 storms a year,” said Gibson.
Gibson says he is grateful the team brought resources from state and federal level to help the county. He wanted to personally shout out to Director of Scotland Emergency Services Roylin Hammond.
“He is a great leader and knows how to lead teams and cooperate without getting a hot head,” Gibson said. “We were lucky to have him, and all the teams.”
Gibson also spoke well of the community, already noticing how residents are giving, helping, and sharing supplies. He appreciates that even through the loss of life and devastation, he feels fortunate to live where that occurs.
“I see different counties and local churches active in feeding others, its important that communities come together,” said Gibson.
The Emergency Operation Center is slowing down as many operations get back to normal.
“Last week our main focus was saving people — now that risk is past, we are focused on getting damage evaluations to access how much the costs are,” said Kevin Patterson, county manager.
He explained that for the county to get individual, state, or federal funding, damage assessments need to be calculated. From those assessments, they would make declarations that would be either approved or denied.
Patterson made clear that it could take a while for that declaration to be approved or denied but he says they already have a plan to help the public if approved.
“For Hurricane Matthew, it took around 15 days for to be approved,” said Patterson, “If we are approved for individual funding, classes would be held for the public to apply for FEMA.”
For people who are still with out water, Patterson reports that it should be up soon.
“Crews are re-piping and now covering those pipes with earth, they are making sure the pipes do not burst,” said Patterson.
He says that power has been restored 99 percent for the city of Laurinburg — not including services that were ripped away from homes.
“For storm detachment service, we are waving permit fees,” said Patterson.
The county manager also reports that four landfills are now open for normal business, but Sneeds Grove is still closed because it is flooded.
Patterson said the county curfew will stay in place until primary roads come back.
“We do not want people driving at night, using the roads that they are used to, we want more stability in our roads (first),” said Patterson. US-501 has reopened but 401 West is still closed.
The Department of Social Services and WIC will open to the public starting at 1 p.m. Friday. Scotland County has not been approved for disaster benefits at this time. Only those who currently receive Food and Nutrition benefits can apply for replacement benefits.
Jael Pembrick can be reached at 910-506-3169 or [email protected]