Outdoor living has been severely curtailed the past few days here in South Carolina, as well in most of the states on the east coast of the United States. Having gone through a disaster which has been described by meteorologists as a 1000-year storm, although the sun is shining, few of us are thinking about relaxing outside and enjoying the good life. In fact, after the devastation that the rain has wrought on the state of South Carolina, most of our population is simply thinking survival. By now, you have seen the images and heard the news of the tremendous storm that hit South Carolina. There is no need for me to post more images of the destruction. They have been shocking and disturbing.
South Carolina bore the brunt of a storm that could be described as the perfect storm, with nearly every county and town suffering its effects. With Hurricane Joaquin slowly churning off to our east, another weather system was approaching from the southwest. While the hurricane never made landfall, working in unison, the two storms created a weather system that sucked moisture into a funnel through Charleston Harbor and inward through the state. I have heard meteorologists on the Weather Channel state that the amount of rainfall that landed in South Carolina would cover the entire state of Rhode Island in 7” of water. Overall, some parts of this area received nearly 27″ of rain–over half our annual rainfall in just a few days.
Why am I writing about this on a blog all about outdoor living? Because this has impacted my community in a very big way. I, my employees, and my business have all survived unscathed and understand how fortunate we are. Most of you have seen the images of the flooding right here in Forest Acres, with dams breaking, creeks over flowing, buildings and streets flooded, and many, many of our neighbors and customers evacuated from their homes. Businesses have been severely damaged and it will be a long, slow process for them to get back up and running. My heart goes out to them.
Throughout Sunday and Monday we all sat glued to our televisions to watch the destruction and await news of how bad things really were out there. Jim Cantori came to Columbia, and while we enjoy watching him on the Weather Channel, he’s not the guy you want visiting your town on job-related business.
My phone was constantly ringing or the text alerting me of someone who was inquiring about our safety. To those many friends, family, and business associates from all over the country who reached out, I sincerely thank you. Fortunately, I had power at my house and was able to recharge my phone throughout the day because my cellular and data volume was, to match the water level, at the highest it has ever been.
But, that’s not all that happened in my little town in the past week. Last Wednesday, one of our police officers was killed in the line of duty. A young officer who had grown up in Forest Acres, Officer Greg Alia responded to a call reporting a suspicious vehicle at a bank outside the mall. He and several officers followed the suspect who led them on a foot chase through the mall. A scuffle ensued and the suspect shot Officer Alia. 32 years old, he leaves behind a wife and baby. His funeral was Saturday just as the messy weather was beginning in the midlands. You may have noticed flags in the background at half-staff on television images of the storm, or you may have seen images of Officer Alia’s patrol car, flower-draped, and protected under a canopy in front of the Forest Acres police station as a memorial to our fallen friend, neighbor, and hero.
We have endured a week of heartache and tragedy in Forest Acres and, while we know that it will take time to recover and heal, I have seen the strength and compassion of the people of Forest Acres, and of South Carolina, and have no fear that together we will get through this and be stronger.
So many have asked me how they can help and where to contribute. As always, in the face of disaster, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and ASPCA will accept your donations. If you would like to contribute to a local organization, the Central Carolina Community Foundation, Harvest Hope Food Bank, Pets Inc., and Pawmetto Lifeline will apply all funds locally and are run by locals from the communities of the midlands of South Carolina. Click on any of them and you will link to their web sites. The Central Carolina Community Foundation will give 100% of your donation to Midlands flood relief organizations if you note on your donation #SCFlood. This organization serves the 11 counties of the Midlands, each of which was affected by this powerful storm.
As I write this, helicopters fly overhead, sirens continue to drown out normal street noises, firefighters/first responders from Tennessee are gathering in the parking lot across the street, and the National Guard is doing what they can to help our community. Any support you can provide is much needed and well appreciated. Thank you to all who have reached out. Remember this didn’t end when the rain did. It will take time for flood waters to recede and for the people of our community to return to normal. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.