Darlington recovering after Hurricane Florence
By Samantha Lylesslyles@newsandpress.net
When forecasts indicated that Hurricane Florence would make landfall in the Carolinas, the City of Darlington began preparing to fight an old foe: storm water.
“We put a primary focus on cleaning out storm drains. We had our new vactor truck go out and work areas of concern,” says Darlington city manager Howard Garland, adding that these efforts focused on streets that usually experience flooding during heavy rain.
These areas included South Main Street near the intersection with East Broad Street, Russell Street, Hampton Street, C and D Avenues.
Garland says that as storm models and local waterway flood warnings continued to change, city workers had to stay on their toes and address problems as they occurred, clearing water where possible and closing streets when necessary. The most severe flooding occurred around the Black Creek area and the Oakdale community, with homes on Shoshone Drive and Hank Haney Lane suffering multiple incursions of floodwater.
“The biggest concern for us was not knowing how much water to expect,” says Garland, noting that city employees did great work all around. “The folks on the vactor truck (led by Jamesy Morrison and Moses Jackson) did an excellent job. They received guidance and support from Streets and Sanitation superintendant Karen Carroll and Water and Sewer superintendant Freddie Kinsaul. Kendrick Holloman took our sweeper truck out and used it to clear storm water on some streets… and Franklin Dowdy and his crew worked with Duke Energy to get the lights back on in areas where we lost power, and Frankie worked on the lift stations and pump stations to get power restored there and keep them working.”
The Darlington Police Department went to 12-hour shifts starting on Thursday before the storm. A curfew went into effect Thursday (Sept. 13) through Sunday (Sept. 16), warning people to stay off the street between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am. The DPD also checked on senior citizens and people with disabilities during the storm to ensure they were well and had everything they needed, such as medications, food, and water.
The Darlington Fire Department served as the city’s Emergency Operations HQ during the storm, and department heads met there three times a day to share the latest information, refuel with food and drinks, and head back into the field.
The Fire Department had to extinguish one tree fire early Saturday morning, caused when a cedar tree fell onto a power line on Park Street, causing a power outage in that area. Firefighters also helped evacuate multiple people from flooded homes, and rescued one resident after a tree fell onto her home and blocked her inside the house.
Garland says that while city employees performed admirably during the storm and its aftermath, Hurricane Florence brought to light a new potential danger that must be addressed with planning and preparation – namely, the dam at Prestwood Lake (beside Sonoco) coming very close to overtopping and releasing more water into an already overflowing Black Creek.
“That issue at Prestwood Lake dam kind of caught us all by surprise. We started getting calls from the community on Monday (Sept. 17) evening about a potential problem there. I called Senator Gerald Malloy to discuss it, and he told us to bring some representatives to the (Darlington County) EOC. For the next sixty hours, we worked our way through the different warnings that water could be coming over the dam. We made sure residents in Oakdale and the Country Club knew what was going on,” says Garland.
Fortunately, Prestwood Lake dam did not overtop. Lake levels decreased and floodwaters slowly began to recede. Still, it was an alarming experience, and one Garland says local governments must incorporate into their emergency response plans.
“We have to make sure moving forward that we have some type of plan in place to handle it, just in case it does happen again,” Garland says.