Society Hill works to adopt Hazardous Mitigation Plan

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

Society Hill town council should count themselves fortunate that their small hamlet did not incur damages from the historic rain and flooding that affected other parts of the county last October. Otherwise, they would have been up a creek without a paddle from FEMA.

According to Mac McDonald, Emergency Management Director, who was joined by Molly Odom, Emergency Management Coordinator at the Tuesday Aug. 9th meeting, the Town of Society Hill has not been in compliance with the Hazardous Mitigation Plan, the only municipality not complying in Darlington County.
“The last major update we did was in 2010, and we tried to get the town of Society Hill to participate with us,” said McDonald. “We even sent certified letters here, and they came back to us never opened. We had to go into for our commission at the county level with FEMA and had to enter, ‘Town failed to participate.’”

Mayor Tommy Bradshaw, who had been apprised of this last month, has been quick to work on the issue, another in a long list of issues that the mayor inherited from previous administrations when he took office.

“That led to another situation that came up this year during the flooding, the town of Society Hill had failed to adopt the Flood Plain Map for farms released by FEMA in 2013 because the Town of Society Hill was not covered under hazard mitigation plan you were referred to as a ‘sanctioned city and in this situation, a sanctioned city in a disaster like the October flooding last year, homeowners in the town of Society Hill would have been eligible for individual assistance that FEMA provides like SPA loans, but the Town of Society Hill would NOT have been eligible for what we refer to as public assistance, which is to reimburse the local government for our costs in the response to a disaster.” said McDonald.

Being a sanctioned city (or town) would have also precluded Society Hill from being eligible for grant programs from federal state funds provided to municipalities after a disaster occurs. Those grants are typically 75 – 25% match, a great savings for a small town such as Society Hill to replace things such as generators and repair town owned property and buildings.

McDonald said the town’s many historical buildings such as the newly restored Depot building, if it were to be destroyed in a tornado, would be a prime example of needing the resources of grant funding.

He described to council what a Hazardous Mitigation Plan entails, using the example of trees such as pecan trees in a community. “Pecan trees that can have a six foot root ball only three feet in the ground,” said McDonald. “After heavy rains and flooding, a period of high winds can topple trees can take them down in a heartbeat. Pine trees, however, are notorious for breaking and creating flying debris.”

Noting item like that tailor the plans specifically for the municipality.

“To get to the point of creating a plan for a municipality, we do a Hazard Vulnerability Analysis,” he continued. “FEMA says you must consider the hazards that may affect the county and municipalities. Well, we did what we refer to as an all-hazard vulnerability analysis. For the county, not only do we look for natural hazards, but we look at the nuclear facility, we look at transportation, hazardous materials coming through the towns. We look at a number of things that go beyond the natural hazards and come up with a hazard mitigation action to work with each one of those.”

“Would you all be surprised if I told you that earthquakes pose a significant risk for this area?” he continued. “We are actually the same earthquake rating category as California, based on the 1886 earthquake in Charleston which was 7.3 magnitude. We’ve done several vulnerability studies where if a 7.3 quake centered in Charleston if it would occur right now, we would see shock waves at any where from 5.5 up to 6 in this area. It wouldn’t give us catastrophic damage, but we would see damage. A 5.8 in Richmond VA a few years ago was felt as far north as Boston, and as far south as Atlanta GA. So that’s the kind of situation we are looking at.”

McDonaled added that the analysis allows the department to assess the hazards on the community, and create plans reduce the effects of hazards on the community, which is the significance of the hazard mitigation plan.

He shared that drafting these are a lot of work; councilwoman Michelle Steen will assist with creating the one for the town, with assistance from McDonald and Odom.

Council voted to approve the First Reading of Ordinance 02-2016/17 to address littering at the Pee Dee River Landing, to make unlawful for any person to place household or business trash and garbage at the receptacle at the recreational/landing area adjacent to the Big Pee Dee River.

Councilwoman Michelle Steen thanked the town and the police department for their help with the fireworks celebration held on July 30, a fundraiser for the volunteer emergency services; although the event was not heavily attended, council members and Mayor Tommy Bradshaw shared that the fireworks display was wonderful. Steen said the rescue squad intends to make this an annual event.

The next regular council meeting will be held Tuesday, September 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall on 280 South Main Street.

Author: Duane Childers

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