A 13-mile stretch of southbound Interstate 95 in South Carolina reopened Monday as the state continued its slow but steady recovery from devastating floods that paralyzed the Palmetto State.
Most schools and businesses have reopened, and the National Guard is no longer roaming local streets. But in many areas heaps of debris provide a soggy reminder of the storm that rolled into South Carolina on Oct. 1 and stalled over the state for several days, swamping some areas with up to 2 feet of rain.
“Thankfully, it has gotten better here,” Charleston resident Chris Morris said Monday.
Preliminary estimates have placed the total damage at more than $1 billion, although state officials have been unwilling to place a dollar sign on the wreckage. Crop damage alone has been estimated at more than $300 million.
Repairs are continuing on hundreds of roads and bridges — including northbound I-95. Transportation officials hoped to reopen it later Monday or Tuesday. Officials repaired 18 bridges weakened or damaged by floodwaters along the 13-mile stretch that had broken the vital highway link from Maine to South Florida. The closure, combined with detours on local roads, forced some travelers to drive 100 miles out of their way.
State contractors on Monday began hauling away debris for some residents whose insurance won’t cover the cleanup.
In Charleston, most businesses and government offices are functioning. Schools are back in session and weekend youth soccer games are being held. Morris’ family home was built on a raised slab that kept the floodwaters from encroaching, so his biggest property problem is a backyard still too wet to mow.
Many of his neighbors were not so lucky. Some were forced to evacuate. They returned to waterlogged homes, saturated furniture. And in some cases mold.
“You can drive anywhere in my neighborhood and see people’s belongings sitting outside,” Morris told USA TODAY. “They aren’t getting rid of it; they are just trying to dry it out.”
But the floodwaters that had swamped his neighborhood have receded. The golf course is no longer underwater, and most local roads closed during and after the storm have reopened.
“We are in recovery mode,” Morris said. “But normal is still a good way down the road.”
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