HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - The damage in Hampton County will take weeks to clean up and those in charge say they’re still keeping track of how much was inflicted on the county.
We spoke with the EMA directors and they say they have already increased Tuesday’s estimate of how much damage was caused to over $1 million. That’s just in homes, not counting commercial properties.
That’s 23 mobile homes and 14 brick homes all destroyed. They say at least 77 people were helped by the Red Cross Tuesday night but they say they estimate at least 250 people have been directly affected.
“Right now the status of Hampton County, we are still in disaster mode," said EMA Director Susanne Peppeles. "We’re still in response mode trying to help everyone. A lot of agencies came in yesterday and we’ve had so many calls today to go to the different areas of the county and help them clean up.”
The emergency director says she spent the entire day putting those numbers together so she could see how much damage the tornado actually caused.
“First time we’ve ever had to go into this kind of mode and anything. So this is a learning experience for us. But, everything is, you know, everyone’s lives are shattered. But it’s starting to come back together. And a lot of places, their yards are being cleaned and they are able to find pieces of their homes. But it’s just disastrous for everybody.”
The emergency department says everyone from the power company, Department of Transportation, public works, fire departments, and EMS are all still out trying to help. The director says she knows how hard this is on everyone, and she wants to help.
“What can I get here for these people? They want their homes built back. You know, how can I get their homes built back? How can I help them? And there is just so much red tape you have to go through. And you can’t just cut through that red tape to get there right now. But we want the citizens to know we’re doing everything we can.”
Governor McMaster declared the storm to be a disaster Wednesday. The EMA says they are also hoping for a federal emergency declaration.
At last check, the estimate was the Hampton County tornado snapped or damaged around 60 power poles here in the county.
It takes about three hours to replace one, and that’s what dozens of linemen have been doing there since Monday.
Wednesday, a helicopter fitted with a saw blade trimmed from above around a power substation a few miles from Nixville. Substations were damaged, too.
So from the air and ground, Palmetto Electric Cooperative along with Santee Cooper have been hard at work, fixing pole after pole, line after line to get lives back to normal for this community.
Tray Hunter, VP of Marketing and PR for Palmetto Electric Cooperative said, “It, it’s just devastating. The path it made through Hampton County, affected a lot of folks, hit a lot of our lines, a lot of our spans. There’s a saying that I’ve always heard that the tornado is the finger of God, and if you see the damage out here, you’ll believe that.”
Hunter said power crews will work into the night and possibly into tomorrow to get power restored to those 160 customers without.
At the peak outage, 6,200 customers had their power knocked out.
As recovery and repairs continue, and likely will for some time, the school district in Hampton County impacted by Monday’s deadly storm is looking to provide help to students affected.
It’s not lost on Superintendent Dr. Ronald Wilcox how devastating this storm was for some families in his school district.
Dr. Wilcox said the district will be very flexible with the students impacted by Monday’s storm. The district is on break right now, but when they come back, schools will be working with students who lost school work, materials, anything like that to get them back up to speed.
Dr. Wilcox says the main thing right now is to get students re-established with their families.
“There are homes lost, and some damaged and a lot of anxiety on those children’s parts. So we’re going to support them every way that we can, with school work and anything that we can do. Provide counseling, if they might need counseling. We’re going to provide encouragement and help them through it. They’ve been through a terrible time.”
The superintendent says several district staff members, a teacher and supervisor, had extensive damage to their homes as well.