The torrent triggered by the storm intensified into the equivalent of three months of rainfall in three days. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says her state is experiencing a 1,000-year flood (a storm with a 1-in-1,000 chance of happening in any given year) as roads washed out, cemeteries gave up their contents, and neighborhoods became identifiable only by roof tops. Saturday, President Obama declared a state of emergency in worst-hit South Carolina, releasing resources and personnel to respond to the situation.
Here’s a short explanation of what happened: Joaquin spent a couple of days spinning near the Bahamas sucking up ocean spray thrown up by intense thunderstorm updrafts. All that water entered a low-level jet stream headed for the Southeast U.S.
The hardest-hit swath of South Carolina stretches from the capital of Columbia, in the middle of the state, all the way to the coast–from Georgetown down to Charleston. ReachGlobal’s Mark Lewis says, “No one has ever seen anything like this…ever…in this region. It’s affecting some of the poorer neighborhoods. They’re being significantly flooded, but there’s also some higher end, wealthier communities that have been very dramatically affected.”
However, he adds, “The good news is we’re hearing from our local churches that…it seems like most people are heeding the warnings to stay inside and let this ride out.”
The real shock is yet to come. Even though people had plenty of notice about what was coming, “You can’t really anticipate what that looks like and what the effects of that will actually be.”
Rising water and the threat of flash floods closed schools, universities, and some businesses Monday. It appears that more rain is expected to fall in the area through Wednesday.
Even after the rain stops, the flood waters will take time to recede. Lewis says, like the mess Hurricane Katrina left in New Orleans, clean-up and recovery will take a long time. But you have to start somewhere. “We’ve been on the phone with churches that are a part of our mobilized network, kind of ‘early responders,’ trying to mobilize some initial resources to come in to help with the initial cleanup, and so we’ve been working on a lot of logistics.”
Although a lot of good has been done, here’s the current reality of post-Katrina New Orleans 8 years later:
* Only half of New Orleans’ 72 neighborhoods have recovered 90% of their June 2005 population.
* The child poverty rate of 42% in the city far exceeds the U.S. rate of 23%.
* There are still an estimated 18,000 Katrina-impacted properties.
Although partnering church Riverside Community Church in Columbia, SC, has significant water damage, “They’re connected with a number of other churches in the community. So, part of their activity was reaching out to some of those other churches and getting a broader understanding of what’s been happening.” They’re already on the move though the rain hasn’t let up yet, and the waters are still rising.
Communication remains sketchy, so initial assessments are just scratching the surface. However, a team from ReachGlobal is on the ground today, getting a firsthand look at damage to the infrastructure and more. Lewis says, “We’ll start to help them assess what resources they have, locally, that can be engaged in the initial stages of response, as the water starts to recede later this week.”
Once it quits raining, the water can recede. After things dry out, rubble gets removed, and houses get mucked out. Rebuilding starts, but as repairs stretch from days into months and years, discouragement threatens to sap the energy that comes from hope. To that end, Lewis asks us to pray “for people just to be receiving care from the Lord for their souls in the midst of difficulties and trauma that they experience. [Pray also] that there would be an outpouring of response from the local church, and that people would be moved by the Holy Spirit to come and serve, to give.”