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When Gov. Henry McMaster toured the flooded town of Nichols last weekend, he was looking at a disaster that wasn’t supposed to happen again.
After the tiny Marion County town was flooded in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew, Nichols received a $1.5 million grant to reduce the impact of future floods, money that was supposed to help it avoid future calamities.
“We were just fixing to get started” on a planned study to divert flood waters away from the town, said Nichols Mayor Lawson Battle. “We had just bid it out.”
But, situated near the intersection of the Lumber and Little Pee Dee rivers, Nichols was swamped again by record rainfall when Hurricane Florence hit the Pee Dee region two weeks ago. The town was flooded by waters a foot higher than during Matthew.
What can you do to help? Here are a couple of ideas:
▪ The town has set up a disaster relief fund at Anderson Brothers Bank to take in donations in care of the Nichols Disaster Relief Fund, 514 W. Mullins St. Nichols, S.C. 29581.
▪ On its Facebook page, the town also is asking for cleaning supplies to be brought to its town hall. The town said it would announce when it was ready to accept food, clothing, furniture and other donations.
Compared to 2016’s flood, Nichols was better prepared this time, said town manager Sandee Rogers.
“In 2016, we had to react unknowingly,” Rogers said. “This time, we had more notice. We were able to get people out, and save some property and lives.”
McMaster toured the area by boat Saturday, Sept. 22, accompanied by Mayor Battle, state Transportation Department director Christy Hall and other local officials. Town officials say they haven’t received specific commitments of money for the town’s recovery. But, they add, the Republican governor, who is running for a four-year term in November, pledged the town again would get help from the state.
But Nichols needs more than money.
It needs people.
After the 2016 flood, many Nichols residents did not return to the town, which once had a population of 400. The fear is that more will leave now.
“We’ve got to get incentives for people to come back and for the businesses … so people have something they want to come back to,” Battle said.
South Carolina has asked for $1.2 billion in federal aid to start recovering from Florence. How much — if any — will go to Nichols is unclear.
Homeowners will need help rebuilding after Florence, town manager Rogers says. But the town will need help, too — rebuilding businesses and infrastructure.
“We need a lot of help,” Battle said. “We’re working hard to do everything we can do.”
Florence’s hit to the state
State officials say it is too early to say just how much Florence has cost the state in lost revenues.
South Carolina’s coastal counties lost tourism income, which the state taxes, as evacuations were ordered before Florence. But some of that tourism tax revenue was not lost to the state because money was spent elsewhere in the state by evacuees, renting hotel rooms and eating out.
The state’s economic forecasters hope to get a sense of how much the hurricane cost the state in tax revenues in November, when they forecast how much money the state will have to spend in the 2019-’20 fiscal year, which starts July 1, said Frank Rainwater, head of the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office.
Of course, beyond lost revenues, there also will be much higher costs to rebuild.
State leaders say they won’t be able to estimate that rebuilding bill until Hurricane Florence’s flood waters recede, allowing flooded roads to be evaluated, for example.
He’s suing Trump, might run for president — and coming to SC
The Horry County Democratic Party will host attorney Michael Avenatti at its annual fundraising dinner.
Avenatti is best known as the attorney for Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who claims to have had an affair with President Donald Trump. Avenatti worked to get Daniels out of a non-disclosure agreement that prevented her from talking about the affair, often tweaking the president in his media appearances in the process.
Avenatti even has floated the idea he might run for president in 2020, which would explain his appearance in South Carolina ahead of its pivotal early primary.
Now, Avenatti is back in the news, representing a woman who alleges sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.
Avenatti will speak Oct. 13 at the Bay Watch Resort in North Myrtle Beach. Tickets must be purchased by Monday, Oct. 1.
Putnam to Palmetto Family
A state representative who ran for statewide office in the June GOP primary will take the lead of one of South Carolina’s most prominent conservative think tanks.
The Greenville News reports state Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Anderson, will become Palmetto Family’s executive director and president after his legislative term ends this year.
Palmetto Family, formerly the Palmetto Family Council, touts itself as “the strongest defender of family, faith and freedom in South Carolina,” according to the News.
Putnam unsuccessfully ran for secretary of state this year, challenging incumbent Mark Hammond in the GOP primary.
Putnam will take over from Oran Smith, who led the organization for 17 years.
Maayan Schechter contributed to this report