It’s amazing to watch the Black River at Kingstree. I drive over the bridge every day to and from work and I always look at the river’s stage. The other day I was checking out the National Weather Service website to see how low the river had dropped. It stood at 2.19 feet. It looked as thought I could walk from side to side without having to swim. I even looked for a car that is reportedly down there.
To my surprise that’s not as bad as it looks. Over the decades there have been several low water records. One in particular was in May 1896 when the river plummeted to -1.20 feet. Minus? That is mind-boggling. If you think about it, that most likely reflected the death of livestock, scorched farmland and wells possibly drying up.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the flood stage of Black River. We will never forget the historic flood of 2015. The river rose to 22.65 feet. The flood stage is 12 feet. Kingstree became a literal island on its own. Citizens standing at the edge of the bridge (it was blocked off to traffic) watched in horror as animals were carried downstream, going under as they made it to the bridge. Miles away, two-story houses were under water. Horses were wandering the back roads. Many families lost everything. A year later another rain event had the river at 16.41 feet above flood stage.
During these tragic events, I will never forget our first responders who left their families to work nonstop helping those who were stranded and needed help. I’ll never forget the men and women of the local National Guard who went door-to-door warning of the impending flood waters encroaching on our properties and staged alongside our Sheriff’s deputies to secure roadways and communities. I’ll always remember our Emergency Management agency that set up shelters for displaced citizens. I will always be grateful to the volunteers, nonprofits and so many others who fed and clothed those who were in need and repaired homes in exchange for a simple handshake and hug.
Last week we came close to another potential catastrophic event when Hurricane Dorian skirted along the coast dumping rain and whipping dangerous winds. We were lucky this time but our law enforcement, EMS drivers, firemen and women and all the others were still on the roads, at the shelters or in the command center making sure our county was protected as best it could be.
The morning Hurricane Dorian was making his way toward us, the winds were howling and the rains had already begun. I sat on my front porch, warm and dry, in my pajamas, sipping coffee as I watched my neighbor, who works for the Sheriff’s Office, drive by on his way to start his shift. Later that day I called in a shattered window on Main Street. Within moments officers and city workers were cleaning up the debris and broken glass as the rains drenched their uniforms.
I’ve seen the cots lined up in conference rooms and along the wall of someone’s office. This is their makeshift home for days on end while their families at home - each worried about the other.
There are no words that I can say to thank them, our true heroes, for their sacrifices, today and even years after we continue to feel the affects of the two floods. They are here for us, no matter what.
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